November 18, 2003

Click It or Ticket

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Buckle up!

Cornell faculty, staff and students had better fasten their seat belts because the national Click it or Ticket Mobilization is underway, and the Cornell University Police are joining more than 13,000 law enforcement agencies and college and university campus police forces to crack down on unrestrained drivers.

The event, conducted twice yearly by the Air Bag and Seat Belt Safety Campaign of the National Safety Council, runs from yesterday to Nov. 30. CUPD will be setting up checkpoints and conducting intersection patrols where they will be checking seat belts and handing out tickets, according to New York State law.

There will be a seat belt checkpoint on Saturday, Nov. 22 from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. by the Cornell heating plant and one on Tuesday, Nov. 25 from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. at an undetermined location. At all times, however, there will be a zero-tolerance policy, and Cornell Police will be carefully monitoring vehicles to make sure that drivers and passengers are buckled up.

According to the National Highway Traffic Administration website, the Click it or Ticket Mobilization “is a high-profile law enforcement activity that gives people more of a reason to buckle up — the increased threat of a traffic ticket. Some people buckle up for safety. But for many people, it is the threat of the ticket that spurs them to put on a seat belt.”

“While national seat belt use is at an all-time high of 79 percent, we know the remaining 21 percent who don’t wear their seat belts are disproportionately teens and young men ages 18-34. And at a 69 percent belt use rate, restraint use for teens and young adults, ages 16 to 24, continues to lag behind the rest of population,” said Sgt. Chuck Howard, traffic enforcement coordinator for CUPD, in a recent press release. He added, “Enforcement gets people to buckle up. Seat belt use in states that conduct high-visibility enforcement is 10 to 15 percentage points higher than in states that simply conduct public education. If every state conducted high-visibility enforcement, we would save 5,000 lives each year.”

The first Click it or Ticket campaign was held in May 2001 with eight states: Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, Florida, Kentucky, Mississippi, Tennessee and South Carolina. In May 2003, police departments in all fifty states, plus Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands participated.

The Cornell mobilization is financed by a state grant, to be used strictly for seat belt enforcement. This year, however, New York has also provided CUPD with a new piece of equipment.

At each checkpoint, as part of the seat belt inspection, a special bar code scanner will check to make sure the driver’s license and vehicle registration are valid. If the driver is a “scofflaw,” meaning that they have outstanding traffic tickets and their license has been suspended for this reason, they will be arrested on site and charged with a misdemeanor.

“The penalties can be harsh,” Howard said. “If someone has an outstanding traffic ticket, they need to take care of it.”

Howard added that this is a service to the Cornell community because if someone were to get into an accident with someone who has a suspended license, their insurance rates can skyrocket.

The tickets that will be handed out to unfastened drivers and passengers will be $50 with a $35 surcharge, for a total of $85. If a person under the age of 16 is not wearing a seat belt, the driver will be given a $100 ticket, with a surcharge, and will be given 3 points on his or her license.

According to Eric Shiffrin ’05, who has driven his car in Ithaca and on the Cornell campus since his sophomore year, the Click it or Ticket Mobilization is “kind of annoying, but it is something they can do to make people care. It is a wake up call because it is important to wear your seat belt.”

Although some students may be bothered by the checkpoints, Howard said, “We are not picking on students per se, we are picking on people who don’t buckle up; it just happens that the 16 to 24 age group has the lowest rate of compliance, and that is where most students fall.”

Andrew Riesenberg ’05, who has recently worked on a risk communication project dealing partially with automobile accidents, also commented on the campaign.

“I was involved in an automobile accident, and the driver was not wearing his seat belt. As soon as the collision happened, I immediately thought he could have been ejected [from the vehicle]. Luckily he wasn’t, but he could have died. Seat belts are necessary because they save lives. Everyone should just take one second when they get into the car to make sure everyone is wearing [his or her] seat belt,” Riesenberg said.

Howard will be conducting surveys before and after the event to gage the success of the campaign, and is very serious about it because “it saves lives and it’s the law.”

According to Howard, “the smartest thing that anyone can do in a motor vehicle is buckle up!”

Archived article by Eric Finkelstein