By CARL SMITH
Area law enforcement agencies are working overtime this weekend to keep county roads safe and crackdown on seat belt violators.
Members of the Mississippi Highway Patrol, Oktibbeha County Sheriff’s Office and Starkville Police Department say their organizations will boost patrols this weekend in conjunction with the upcoming Memorial Day holiday and the ongoing Click It or Ticket seat belt enforcement campaign.
OCSO Chief Deputy Chadd Garnett said his department has written over 30 seat belt tickets since the start of the national campaign on Monday. Two recently acquired grants — one for seat belt enforcement and another for DUI enforcement — provide over $35,000 to the department for overtime work during holidays and other major enforcement times and equipment. While OCSO will stretch the two grants’ overtime funding over the course of the year to boost patrols and increase deputies’ visibility, Garnett said two additional deputies will patrol the county this weekend.
Mississippi Highway Patrol Trooper Brian Mobley says increased police visibility helps reinforce seat belt wearing. MHP also will boost holiday weekend patrols and Click It or Ticket enforcement.
“Half our battle is being seen. When someone sees that patrol car while driving, I can’t tell you how many people we see reach up and grab that seat belt,” Mobley said. “We’re going to be out there and paying extra attention to the fact that some people are not wearing seat belts. We wish we never had to write anybody a ticket for it, but we’re looking at the bigger picture. If a driver is in an accident and they’re wearing a seat belt, there’s a better chance their injuries will be less severe (than an occupant not wearing his or her seat belt).”
SPD Sgt. Shawn Word said drivers with young passengers should be mindful of child restraint laws. Word said children up to 8 years old should have proper child seats and restraints.
“We’ll have extra officers out patrolling through the (Click It or Ticket) campaign,” Word said. “Wear your seat belt or be ready for a citation.”
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Ticket or Click It website states the annual crackdown has resulted in more than 3 million violations in the past five years. Early statistics from the NHTSA show a 1.7 percent decline in 2011 traffic fatalities compared from the previous year.
The campaign is scheduled to end June 3.