Local law enforcement joins national blitz

It takes three seconds and it can save your life.

The Valley City Police Department and the Barnes County Sheriff’s Office is participating in a seatbelt blitz as part of a national “Click It or Ticket” campaign that will run from May 21 to June 3.

“We write seatbelt citations throughout the year, but we won’t give any warnings for a two-week period here,” said Barnes County Sheriff’s Deputy Brian Hager.

Valley City Police Sgt. David Swenson said in news release wearing a seat belt is the single most effective way to reduce motor vehicle fatalities.

“A crash can happen in an instant but there’s one thing you can do to protect yourself from injury or even death,” said Swenson. “One day it could even save your life.”

In North Dakota, driving without a seatbelt is not a primary offense for adults over 18, meaning those drivers cannot be pulled over by law enforcement simply for not wearing one. Hager said officers will be looking for other reasons to stop unbelted drivers.

“We’ll look for any traffic offense or any offense,” he said.

The fee for a seat belt violation is $20 and if the driver is under 18, a point will be taken off their drivers license. Drivers can also be fined for unbelted adult passengers in the front seat, or any unbelted occupant in the vehicle.

During the campaign, North Dakota Department of Transportation, Law enforcement agencies and traffic safety advocates will work to reduce the amount of highway fatalities and injuries caused by failure to wear a seat belt. The NDDOT recently displayed vehicles that had been involved in crashes at nearly a dozen high schools throughout the state.
In 2011 one unbelted driver or passenger in a motor vehicle accident died every five days, which is more frequent than one every 8.3 days in 2010. Sixty-six percent of those killed in crashes were not wearing a seatbelt and 40 percent of the applicable fatalities were partially or totally ejected from the vehicle. On average, crashes occurred every 28 minutes.

With all that in mind, Hager said he was not sure how often warnings are actually given instead of citations to unbelted drivers throughout the year.

“I can’t speak for the other guys, but I know I don’t (give warnings),” he said.