New York and Vermont are among 22 states participating in a “Border to Border” law enforcement campaign aimed at getting more people to wear their seatbelts.
As summer approaches, law enforcement has initiated its annual Click It or Ticket Campaign to encourage use of seatbelts and child safety seats.
Officers representing New York and Vermont police agencies met Monday at the state border marker at the center of the southern bridge over Lake Champlain to illustrate their multi-state enforcement of the campaign.
Vermont Department of Public Safety Deputy Commissioner Chris Herrick says the Click It or Ticket Campaign isn’t about issuing traffic violations, but rather saving lives. “In Vermont last year more than half of our fatal crash victims were people who had seat belts available but for whatever reason chose not to use them. High visibility seat belt enforcement is important 24 hours a day regardless of which side of the lake you’re on. Here in the North Country our law enforcement resources are too scarce for any one law enforcement agency to have a meaningful impact on driver behavior all by themselves. That’s why our police, state, local and county, are teaming up to deploy their resources with a cohesive strategy.”
New York has had a mandatory seatbelt law for more than 30 years. It is a primary offense, which means officers can stop a driver if they are not wearing a seat belt. New York State Police Troop B Commander Major John Tibbitts called the Buckle Up New York campaign a highly successful effort, with more than 90 percent of the state’s motorists buckling up and using child safety seats. But he added that despite record use, too many needless deaths and injuries occur. “Throughout the summer troopers will emphasize enforcement in low compliance counties. We will be focusing efforts on nighttime enforcement and where seatbelt use at night is known to be lower than during the day. Not just in New York state but nationwide.”
Vermont Secretary of Transportation Joe Flynn said technological improvements in highway and vehicle design have significantly improved safety, but seatbelts remain the most effective safety measure. “With all the engineering and technological advancements that have been made the simple act of wearing your seat belt is the easiest and most effective thing you can do to increase your chances of surviving a crash. The seat belt is your last line of defense if you’re involved in a crash.”
In Vermont, not wearing a safety belt is a secondary offense, meaning patrol officers cannot pull you over unless there is a primary violation. Orange County Captain Kyle Kapitanski says he often sees drivers not using seatbelts, but he can’t stop them. “Everybody in Vermont knows that it’s a secondary violation so they know that if their equipment is up to standard, if their registrations are good, their inspections are good and they’re not speeding they can wave at us without their seat belts on and there’s nothing we can do about it.”
Kapitanski says he would like state legislators to make it a primary offense. “The injury accidents that I’ve seen are much more severe when people are not wearing their seat belts. There’s some sort of stigma in Vermont, maybe it’s just Orange County, but I hear all the time people say well if I had had my seat belt on when I was in that crash the seat would’ve killed me. And that’s just absolutely not true. Every crash that I’ve seen either injury or fatality accident has been so much more compounded without a seatbelt on.”
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates seatbelts saved more than 14,000 lives in 2017 nationally and could have saved another 2,400 people if they had been wearing them.