For the second year in row, police will again take to the streets at night to pull over and ticket drivers who aren't wearing their seatbelts. The campaign will be waged between May 19 and June 1.
A recent analysis by the WTSC said that the Click It or Ticket campaign may be helping to reduce fatalities on Washington roads. During 2007, both daytime and nighttime vehicle occupant fatalities were lower compared to the previous 10 years (216 deaths vs. the 247 average for the previous 10 years). But Jonna VanDyk, program manager, admitted it's hard to determine whether seat belt use can be attributed to the lower deaths.
"The year prior was a bad year overall," she said. "Talking about a big social event like traffic deaths is a combination of factors."
"We have a number of projects underway that are designed to reduce the number of traffic deaths on our roadways," said Steve Lind, Traffic Safety Commission acting director.
Statewide, there will be 46 law enforcement agencies participating in the nighttime seat belt enforcement project. This includes 10 agencies in King County, including the Bellevue, Black Diamond, Burien, Issaquah, Kent, Maple Valley, Sea-Tac, Shoreline and Woodinville Police Departments as well as the Washington State Patrol. The local Community Traffic Safety Task Force Coordinators in the Kent Police Department and Public Health Seattle & King County have been instrumental in organizing local patrols for this effort.
During the most recent Nighttime Seatbelt emphasis in October 2007, law enforcement officers statewide made 7,524 contacts with motorists and intercepted a large number of high-risk drivers, who are more likely to be involved in fatal or serious injury collisions, including:
3,769 seatbelt and car seat violations
72 drunk driver arrests
89 drug arrests, including 11 for drug impaired driving
57 reckless and aggressive driving violations
64 felons arrested and taken to jail and another 110 criminal arrests
4 stolen cars were recovered
282 motorists had no valid driver license
478 motorists had no insurance
Comparatively, during the inaugural May 2007 campaign, law enforcement officers cited 4,671 unbuckled drivers and passengers statewide.
"The Click It or Ticket seat belt patrols were directed to take place after 7 p.m. because the death rate is four times higher at night than it is during the day," Lind said.
VanDyk said nighttime patrols tend to net what police characterize as the "bad boys" – individuals with spotty driving records. Daytime patrols tend to net older drivers.
When used correctly, seat belts reduce the risk of injury and death by about 70 percent, according to local and national research.
This May, the patrols will be conducted in the same manner as before, involving both an observational officer and patrol vehicles. When an unbuckled motorist is spotted, the observing officer radios ahead to the patrol vehicle to make the stop.
Washington's seat belt law passed in 1986, and at that time only 36 percent of motorists buckled up. Washington's primary seat belt law (which gives law enforcement the authority to pull over unbuckled motorists) became effective in June 2002, at which time seat belt use in the state hovered at 83 percent. The Click It or Ticket campaign was adopted in 2002 and since its inception seat belt use has risen to 96.4 percent, making Washington's seat belt use one of the highest in the nation.