Harford County Sheriff’s Office Supports Click It or Ticket Enforcement Efforts

(Harford County, Md) — From May 23 through June 5, 2005, the Harford County Sheriff’s Office will join more than one hundred law enforcement agencies across Maryland, and more than 13,000 across the nation, to participate in the nationwide Click It or Ticket Mobilization. The Mobilization is an annual intensified enforcement effort designed to educate the public about the lifesaving and injury-reducing benefits of safety belt use.

The goal of the effort is to boost Maryland’s 89 percent safety belt use rate and to reduce fatalities with a special emphasis on pickup truck drivers and passengers, who buckle up less than their counterparts in other vehicles. Even at an 89 percent usage rate, more than 550,000 Marylanders continue to put themselves at risk each day by not buckling up on every ride. In fact, 240 of the 468 Marylanders who were fatally injured as drivers or occupants in motor vehicle crashes during 2004 were improperly restrained or totally unrestrained. Nationally, motor vehicle crashes continue to be the leading cause of death for every age from 3 through 33 in the United States.

“It is a well known fact that when motor vehicle crashes occur, seat belts are the single most effective safety device in preventing serious injuries and reducing fatalities,” stated Sgt. Joseph VanSeeters, the Sheriff’s Office Traffic Unit Supervisor, adding, “It’s very simple: seat belts save lives.”

Between 1975 and 2000, safety belts prevented 135,000 fatalities and 3.8 million injuries, saving $585 billion in medical and other costs. If all vehicle occupants had used safety belts during that period, nearly 315,000 deaths and 5.2 million injuries could have been prevented – and $913 billion in costs saved. The National Study Center for Trauma and EMS, located at the University of Maryland, estimates that if 92 percent of Maryland drivers and passengers buckled up (a three percentage point increase from the current rate), 74 lives could be saved each year.

“Because we’ve seen first hand the severe injury and death that often result from not wearing a safety belt, we will be showing zero tolerance for anyone not buckled up. Unless you want to risk a ticket – or worse, your life – remember to wear your belt,” said VanSeeters. “We want everyone on the road to remember to buckle up on every ride,” he concluded.

Maryland has a rich history of being a leader in safety belt and child safety seat compliance. This is a direct result of the commitment and dedication that Maryland’s law enforcement community has made to establishing successful community-based educational programs for and partnerships with the citizens they serve. However, it also is a well-known fact that when friendly educational methods alone do not result in voluntary compliance, Maryland officers, deputies, and troopers do not hesitate to use the final “educational” tool – a safety belt citation.

“The highest priority for law enforcement officials is to protect and preserve the lives of the citizens we serve,” said Sheriff R. Thomas Golding. “As a team, we want our message to be clear to Marylanders of all ages: if they are not buckled up, at least one member of our law enforcement team will stop them and issue a ticket—because all of us care about the citizens we serve,” added Golding.

In Harford County, local law enforcement officials will be conducting enforcement initiatives over the next two weeks, and will pay particular attention to violations at night. In Maryland in 2003, slightly more than 31 percent of total crashes took place during the hours of darkness. But nearly 53 percent of all fatal crashes took place during these same hours—indicating that much lower seat belt use, and higher risk driving behaviors such as impaired driving—are taking place more often during those hours. Therefore, the Sheriff’s Office will be joining other law enforcement in the Mid-Atlantic region to participate in extra patrols. For more information about the Chiefs’ Challenge campaign please contact Sgt. Joseph VanSeeters at 410-692-7872.

Press Release

May 23, 2005