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Nighttime-focused seat belt enforcement underway

By Emily Wilfong
Special to The SUN

Seat belt use is consistently lower at night than during the day, resulting in more unbuckled fatalities.

In an effort to encourage greater nighttime seat belt use, the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT), Colorado State Patrol (CSP) and law enforcement agencies throughout the state are joining forces for the annual nighttime seat belt education and enforcement Click It or Ticket, which runs through Sunday, July 27.

“A lot of dangerous behavior seems to occur after the sun goes down,” said Col. Scott Hernandez, chief of the CSP. “We consistently see an increase in DUIs and decrease in seat belt use at night, and the two are sometimes related — many impaired drivers don’t wear their seat belts. We’re doing this increased nighttime enforcement to crack down on this risky behavior and remind everyone that a seat belt can save your life, no matter what time it is.”

Not only does wearing a seat belt save lives, but it also has a positive economic impact. According to a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) report titled “The Economic and Societal Impact of Motor Vehicle Crashes,” seat belt use has saved approximately $1.6 trillion in economic costs (2010 dollars) since 1975. The deaths and injuries that occur from nonuse continue to cost an estimated $14 billion each year in medical care, lost productivity and other injury related costs.

“Crashes have a cost for everyone involved,” said Darrell Lingk, director of the Office of Transportation Safety at CDOT. “If you don’t wear your seat belt, you will receive at least a $65 ticket. If you don’t wear your seat belt and are in a crash, the costs — both personal and financial — are much higher. And remember: sea belts are your best defense against an impaired driver.”

In 2013, Colorado’s nighttime seat belt enforcement resulted in 2,370 citations. The Colorado seat belt law is simple — Click it or Ticket.

Colorado’s seat belt laws

• Adults — Colorado has a secondary enforcement law for adult drivers and front-seat passengers. Drivers can be ticketed for violating the seat belt law if they are stopped for another traffic violation. Click It or Ticket enforcement focuses on speeding and aggressive drivers. Drivers who are stopped for a traffic violation and are not using a seat belt will be ticketed. The minimum fine is $65.

• Teens — Colorado’s Graduated Drivers Licensing (GDL) law requires all drivers under 18 and their passengers, no matter what their age, to wear seat belts. This is a primary enforcement, meaning teens can be pulled over simply for not wearing a seat belt or having passengers without seat belts. To learn more, visit www.COTeenDriver.com.

• Children — Colorado’s child passenger safety law is primary enforcement, meaning the driver can be stopped and ticketed if an officer sees an unrestrained or improperly restrained child under age 16 in the vehicle. To learn more, visit www.CarSeatsColorado.com.

In 2012, seat belts saved an estimated 12,174 lives nationwide. An additional 3,031 lives could have been saved if all unrestrained passenger vehicle occupants 5 and older involved in fatal crashes had been properly restrained. For more information on seat belt citation data online, visit www.Seat beltsColorado.com and click on Seat belt Enforcement Reporting in Quick Links.

This story was posted on July 24, 2014.