Police promote compliance with state’s seat belt law

Staff Writer

By linda denicola

Police promote compliance
with state’s seat belt law

FREEHOLD TOWNSHIP — Working with the New Jersey Division of Highway Traffic Safety, township police officers were stopping young drivers on May 20 to see if they were buckled up.

If a driver was buckled up, he received a letter of congratulations and a 10-minute prepaid phone card.

If a driver’s seat belt was not buckled he received a warning notice. The warning notice informed the driver that he had been observed not wearing a seat belt and that his license plate had been recorded. The driver was told that if he continued to ignore the seat belt law he would receive a summons.

The notice handed out to drivers informed them that more than 4,600 people between 16 and 18 years "young" were killed or seriously injured in fatal traffic crashes in 2000.

"Wearing your seat belt allows you to reduce your chance of being disabled, scarred or killed in a crash by 45 to 60 percent. You also will be in compliance with New Jersey’s primary seat belt law and save $76 in ticket fines," the notice states.

According to Freehold Township Police Lt. Robert Brightman, motor vehicle stops were set up at Freehold Township High School, Elton-Adelphia Road; in front of the municipal building at the intersection of Schanck and Stillwells Corner roads; and at the entrance to Michael J. Tighe Park, Georgia Road.

"We stopped and spoke to over 1,100 vehicle occupants to educate them on passenger safety. We recorded the statistical data and will go back again to see if the campaign worked," the lieutenant said.

The officers who were stopping motorists at the high school were dressed in civilian clothing so students had no idea they were going to be stopped as they were leaving the parking lot, Brightman said.

"We received a lot of positive feedback from students and the public on the days following the stops," he said. "It is our hope that this educational program will benefit the student driver and the older drivers that may forget to use their seat belts."

Brightman said motor vehicle crashes remain the leading cause of death among teen-agers, hence the motivation behind the May "Click It or Ticket" campaign.

"The latest statistics are offering a sobering reason to support the effort. Nothing kills more teen-agers than motor vehicle crashes and more often than not the teen-ager is not buckled up," the officer said.

According to data compiled by the National Highway Safety Administration, in 2000, two thirds of the 4,600 motor vehicle crashes involving young people included drivers and passengers who were not wearing seat belts. In 2000, 57 young people were killed or seriously injured in New Jersey and 61 percent of young people involved in motor vehicle crashes were unbuckled.

"Between the ages of 16 and 18, young people are at a deadly intersection of age and high risk behavior," Brightman said. "Inexperienced at the wheel and more likely to take chances, these teen-agers are at a time in their life when seat belts are essential. Yet, too many teens don’t buckle up, and end up in our emergency rooms, disabled, scarred or dead.

"Our message to teens is simple. Secure yourself. Secure your date. Secure everyone in your car. Buckle up during the prom, during the week, in fact, every time you get in the car," the lieutenant said.

Brightman reminded motorists that seat belt use is the law in 49 states and the District of Columbia. New Jersey’s seat belt law is a primary stop law, meaning that an officer who observes a driver or passenger not wearing a seat belt may stop the vehicle even if no other offense has been observed.

"Failure to wear a seat belt is risky in a lot of ways. Your risk being maimed or killed and you risk getting a ticket. Our officers issued in excess of 250 seat belt summonses in May," he said.