TRENTON – Beginning next week, law enforcement agencies throughout New Jersey will be cracking down on unbuckled motorists and their passengers as part of the annual “Click It or Ticket” campaign.
Nearly 150 agencies received $4,000 each to run the seatbelt enforcement checkpoints and saturation patrols, which will take place May 21 to June 3.
In Middlesex County, police departments in Carteret, East Brunswick, Edison, Monroe, New Brunswick, North Brunswick, Old Bridge, Piscataway, Plainsboro, Sayreville, Spotswood and Woodbridge received grants. In Union County, police departments in Cranford, Elizabeth, Fanwood, Hillside, Kenilworth, Linden, Rahway, Roselle, Roselle Park and Westfield received funding.
The crackdowns come during the Memorial Day holiday weekend, one of the busiest times on the roads. According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), 22,187 passenger vehicle occupants were killed in motor vehicle crashes in 2010 and 51 percent of them were not wearing seat belts at the time of their fatal crashes. NHTSA statistics show that in 2010 alone, seat belts saved an estimated 12,546 lives nationwide.
“Buckling up is the single most effective way for a motor vehicle occupant to avoid death or serious injury in a crash,” Division of Highway Traffic Safety Acting Director Gary Poedubicky said. “During what we expect to be a highly trafficked period, motorists and their passengers need to make their safety the top priority and wear their seat belt no matter how long the journey.”
The Click It or Ticket campaign has been credited with raising New Jersey’s seat belt compliance numbers since the state adopted the program in 2003. According to a 2011 observational survey conducted by Fairleigh Dickinson University, 94.51 percent of front-seat motorists and passengers wore their seatbelts, compared with just 81.2 percent in 2003. That places the Garden State among the national leaders. However, according to Poedubicky, back-seat compliance (61 percent) is extremely low and there is clearly room for improvement.
“Our goal is undoubtedly 100 percent compliance with seatbelts. While we’ve seen the front-seat usage rate climb every year for the past 14 years, passengers in the back remain at a critical risk, especially adults, who only put on a seat belt in the back 35 percent of the time” Poedubicky said.
Last year, 85 percent of New Jersey police agencies, or 419 of 493, participated in the Click It or Ticket campaign. The mobilization ran from May 23 to June 5 and resulted in 32,228 seat belt citations, down from 35,671 in 2010. Police officers also wrote 926 child restraint and 5,865 speeding citations, and made 953 DWI arrests.
Legislation passed in 2010 made it a secondary offense for adults over the age of 18 to ride unbuckled in the back seat of a motor vehicle. The law allows police to issue a summons and fine of $46 to unrestrained adults in the back seat when the car they are riding in is pulled over for another violation. The state’s primary seat belt law requires all motorists and passengers in the front seat, including passengers under the age of 18, to wear a seat belt or be securely buckled in a car seat, or face a $46 fine. This ticket is issued to the driver.
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