Police on the watch for seat belt scofflaws | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Police on the watch for seat belt scofflaws

William Ferchland, Tahoe Daily Tribune

Law enforcement will have a more watchful eye toward seat belt violators as a two-week effort to remind motorists to buckle-up begins today.

Armed with the theme Remember or Be Remembered and more than $1 million in federal grant money, the California Highway Patrol is hoping to remind the 9 percent of California drivers, or roughly 3.2 million people, to wear a seat belt to avoid being ticketed or worse.

“It’s the easiest, quickest way to save yourself,” said Tom Marshall, CHP spokesman.

Half of the $3.8 million grant from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration went to similar enforcement last November. The other half will be used for this month’s enforcement to cover an aggressive media campaign and officer overtime.

In the 1980s a seat belt ticket could only be issued if another traffic violation occurred. In the 1990s the law was changed so drivers can be pulled over for not buckling in.

“We don’t like to have to give the tickets out,” Marshall said. “We wish people would listen to the message we’re giving out.”

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Authorities can pull over a car that has passengers not wearing seat belts, said CHP Sgt. Brian McLaughlin. If the passenger is a minor, the driver will be ticketed, if not, the passenger will receive the citation, McLaughlin said.

The enforcement period includes Memorial Day weekend, a holiday that typically has an increased number of cars on the road. According to the Automobile Association of America, 3.9 million Californians traveled by car last Memorial Day weekend.