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Don’t get ticketed in seat belt crackdown

By Shonna Riggs -   Apr 26, 2007

St. Charles Parish and state police will crack down on unbuckled drivers and passengers from May 3 through June 21 and issue tickets to anyone not wearing a seat belt.

And that means you, bucko.

Louisiana's annual seat-belt safety campaign, called “Click It or Ticket," is heavily advertised statewide.

And, from a lawman’s point of view, the promotion serves as “fair warning” that patrolmen are going to strictly enforce the state’s seat belt law for the next two months.

“One in four Louisiana drivers doesn't wear a seat belt,” retired lawman Col. James Champagne, executive director of the Louisiana Highway Safety Commission, told the Herald-Guide exclusively.

“The St. Charles Parish Sheriff’s Office is one of the agencies in the state taking part in the campaign to support us in correcting this problem.”

Champagne said Louisiana ranks dead last in the nation when it comes to motorists wearing their seat belts.
“Before hurricanes Katrina and Rita devastated our area, those numbers were improving,” he said.
“But in the last two years, the numbers have been going down.
“After the hurricanes, people were more concerned about situations resulting from the aftermath of the storms, like where to eat, sleep, live and work.

"Seat belt safety wasn’t a priority for anyone. And the numbers are still edging down.”
Studies show that injuries and deaths from accidents in which drivers or their passengers weren’t wearing seat belts cost Louisiana a staggering $6 billion a year.
“Simply fastening your seat belt can cut your risk of serious injury or death in half,” Champagne said.

Citations  for not wearing seat belts cost drivers $25.
Champagne said the fine is peanuts compared to what some states charge. He’d like to see Louisiana “up the ante.”
“This is a small amount of money,” he said. “If the fines were increased, citizens would take the seat belt law more seriously.

“I've actually seen drivers get a ticket and then drive off without putting their seat belt on: $25 just doesn’t mean that much to them.”

But Champagne warned that  drivers will be ticketed “multiple times” if they are caught violating the law more than once - even during the same stop.

In other words, if you get a ticket for driving without you seat belt, don’t drive away in a huff without buckling up.
Otherwise, you’ll get another ticket, he said, adding: “Our police officers are committed to this program.”

Louisiana is one of 25 states in the nation with a primary seat belt law. That means police can stop you solely for not wearing a seat belt.

Questions? Comments? Write to Shonna Riggs at editor@heraldguide.com

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