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Seat-belt crackdown on the way

May 17, 2008|By Jeremy Oberstein

BURBANK — The Burbank Police Department is cracking down on drivers who fail to wear seat belts.

Police will not set up checkpoints around the city during the national three-week Click-it or Ticket campaign, but will be on the look out for drivers failing to wear seat belts during the focus period from May 12 to June 1, Chief Tim Stehr said.

“We want to make sure that all drivers and passengers buckle up on every ride, day and night,” he said. “This is all about safety.”

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The program is funded with a $10,000 grant Burbank received from the state’s Office of Traffic Safety, funds that pay for overtime hours for 13 traffic officers specifically on the lookout for seat-belt law violators.

Despite the fact that California has the nation’s fourth-highest rate of wearing seat belts — close to 95% — accidents from drivers not strapped in is still a salient problem in the region and the state, he said.

In 2007, California’s teen seat-belt use rate was nearly six percentage points lower than the state rate and the department cited 1,308 people for failing to wear seat belts during last year’s campaign, Stehr said.

The average citation in Burbank for drivers not wearing seat belts is $92 for the first violation, $200 for the second and $272 for subsequent violations.

Drivers can also be cited as much as $380 for failing to restrain children in car seats, according to department statistics.

The high fines and increased enforcement contributed to eight fewer collisions during last year’s program, Stehr said.

But police may be able to give out fewer tickets this year, due to a $30,000 drop off in grant money received, Stehr said. Last year the department was given $40,000 from the state to administer the program.

“The amount of citations won’t be the same,” Stehr aid. “It will be hard to have a lasting effect.”

The drop-off in Burbank funds follows a state trend, state traffic safety spokesman Chris Cochran said.

Each year the state’s traffic safety division receives federal grants for targeted programs they hope will decrease accidents and fatalities, such as campaigns to reduce drinking and driving. This year, the state department received $1.8 million in federal funds to wage its specific campaigns around California, a sharp decrease form last year’s $4-million federal grant, he said.

“Grants vary from year to year for a number of reasons, but what it boils down to is that there is a whole lot less money,” Cochran said.

The lessened grant money for the Click It or Ticket campaign, something 281 cities around the state participate in, might also be chalked up to the relative safety of California drivers, exemplified by the high rate of state motorists wearing seat belts, Cochran said.

“We’re doing very well and, as a result, not spending quite as much money,” he said.

“That may be because in California, drivers can be pulled over for not wearing seat belts. In some other state, police have to have something else to pull you over for.”


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