April 29, 2003

Seatbelt Use: Cornell Police Buckles Down

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Students buckled up for the law last week as the Cornell University Police Department (CUPD) held its triannual “C.U. Click It or Ticket” campaign in an effort to encourage members of the University community to comply with New York State seatbelt regulations.

The campaign, which ran from April 20-27, resulted in 202 traffic citations and arrests for those who passed through checkpoints while not wearing a seatbelt.

Drivers were also pulled over for not complying with child restraint laws, driving with a suspended or expired license or registration, drunk driving and unlawful possession of marijuana.

Checkpoints, which were enforced for four hours each day, were set up at the intersections of Campus and Hoy Roads and Caldwell and Campus Roads. While violators pulled over were punished, people who were properly buckled up received key rings as a gift from the police.

The campaign was funded through a grant from the New York State Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee (TSC), which receives money from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Cornell’s participation is part of the statewide “Buckle Up New York” campaign.

“We feel it is important that the entire community be involved in buckling up,” said Sgt. Chuck Howard, traffic enforcement coordinator for the CUPD. “We take seatbelt compliance surveys approximately one week before and one week after the campaign and this is how we gauge how successful we have been.”

The NHTSA estimates that if the seatbelt compliance rate in the state were 85 percent, approximately 148 lives and $404 million in medical costs would be saved each year. The current rate is 83 percent, according to the TSC.

“We feel it is very important because of the lives lost every year, especially in the 16-25 age group. The 16-25 age group has a very high rate of people not buckling up, unfortunately,” Howard said.

The campaign is run three times throughout the year, usually twice in the fall term and once in the spring.

Student responses to the campaign have been positive.

“I think it draws awareness to driving safety,” said Wes Hannah ’06.

James Berry ’06 agreed that it was important to ensure that people were protecting themselves and others by buckling up.

“I think people would have to be stupid to not know to wear their seatbelts in the first place. If they are catching people who aren’t wearing their seatbelts, then I guess this campaign is a good idea,” Berry said.

However, motorists who received tickets were not as optimistic.

“It’s hard for people to accept a ticket for anything, but everyone should know by now that seatbelts save lives,” Howard said.

Archived article by Erica Temel