Highway patrol educates people about “buckling up”

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    By Amy Nelson

    Local police worked extra hours this weekend as part of a national program to promote and enforce safety belt usage.

    This extra enforcement is done every Memorial Day and Labor Day — the two highest traveling weekends of the year — as part of the “Make it Second Nature” campaign, said Lt. Carl Johnston of Spanish Fork.

    Johnston said in the 28 hours of designated seatbelt-enforcement time, Spanish Fork Police issued 14 citations, 49 warnings, and gave out educational materials about the seatbelt law to 50 cars. He said he felt that the goals of the project, which were to bring attention to seatbelt usage and get people to slow down, had been reached.

    The project comes at a crucial time for Utah, since the new seatbelt law mandating that every person in a vehicle must be belted went into effect May 1. Johnston said the extra weekend enforcement was mainly for general seatbelt usage awareness with the national campaign, but it has helped with making sure Utahns are aware of the requirements under the new law.

    The new law is mainly “for someone totally negligent, someone who is not wearing a seatbelt just because they don’t want to,” Johnston said. Those who already wear a seatbelt on a regular basis won’t really be affected by the new law.

    Sgt. Doug Rawlinson of the Utah Highway Patrol said troopers in Utah County reported 125 seatbelt contacts for the weekend. He said the Highway Patrol concentrated on regular enforcement, but they did make an emphasis on educating people about the law.

    Seatbelt usage should be a priority and take strict enforcement, Rawlinson said, just because seatbelts greatly increase safety.

    “We just see so many crashes where they would (prevent) injury or death,” Rawlinson said.

    The new Utah seatbelt law authorizes law enforcement officials to give citations to anyone not wearing a seatbelt as a secondary offense, but anyone under 19 can be pulled over specifically for not wearing a belt. It also says that all children under the age of four must be in an approved safety seat.

    Violators will most likely be given warnings for the first few months, according to Sgt. Bill Wright from Payson, just because the main purpose right now is to educate the public. However, citations will be issued where needed, at $45 a piece.

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