Police to ramp up seat belt enforcement

ELLSWORTH — If the prospect of flying head-first through your windshield isn’t enough incentive to buckle up, consider this: the decision could hurt your wallet too.

Maine law enforcement on Monday will start a two-week Click It or Ticket campaign to enforce seat belt laws.

“As we kick off the busy summer driving season, it is critical that everyone buckles up, day and night — no excuses,” said Col. Robert Williams, chief of the Maine State Police. “Troopers are prepared to ticket anyone who is not wearing their seat belt, including drivers who have neglected to buckle their children.”

The Ellsworth Police Department is one of 45 law enforcement agencies around the state to receive funding to pay officers overtime to enforce seat belt laws. The Maine Bureau of Highway Safety distributed $313,403 for the two-week effort.

At 4 p.m. on May 22, Maine police officers will join law enforcement agencies across half of the United States in mobilizing the Click It or Ticket “Border to Border” Operation. Law enforcement agencies will join forces to provide increased seat belt enforcement at state borders including on Maine routes 1, 2 and 3. The Route 1 effort is from Brunswick to Rockland, Route 2 from New Hampshire to Pittsfield and Route 3 from Augusta to Belfast.

“Seat belts save dozens of Maine lives every year, but some motorists are still not buckling up, especially at night when the risk of getting in a crash is greater,” said Lauren Stewart, director of the Maine Bureau of Highway Safety. “Buckling up is not optional; it’s the difference between life and death in a crash. That’s why law enforcement is out there enforcing the law.”

Stewart said although seat belt usage in Maine is very high, the consequences when they are not used are deadly. Of the fatal crashes in Maine in the past year, 42 percent of daytime accident victims and 65 percent of nighttime victims were unbelted.

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 9,874 passenger vehicle occupants killed in 2015 were not wearing their seat belts.

The Click It or Ticket enforcement runs from May 22 to June 4.