Troopers prepare to hand out tickets

Annual seat belt awareness program targets unbuckled drivers

More than half of the 460 people who died on Colorado highways in 2005 weren't wearing their seat belts, according to the Colorado State Patrol.

According to the State Patrol, 258 drivers and passngers died last year while not wearing seat belts.

On Monday, the Colorado State Patrol kicks off its "Click It or Ticket Campaign," which is aimed at increasing awareness about traffic safety and enforcing the state's seatbelt laws.

The program runs through June 4 and targets drivers with unbuckled children as well as aggressive and speeding drivers.

Since the program started in 2001, State Patrol has seen a 27 percent reduction in deaths of unbuckled drivers.

"Click It or Ticket uses both education and enforcement to improve seat belt use and reduce traffic deaths on our highways," said Col. Mark Trotsel, chief of the State Patrol.

Police can ticket drivers year-round for not wearing a seat belt, but they can't pull drivers over simply because the driver doesn't have a seat belt on.

Police can, however, pull over drivers if there are unrestrained children in the car.

"Law enforcement officers are dedicated to enforcing Colorado's seat belt and child safety seat laws because they know that enforcing our laws will save lives and prevent serious injuries," Trotsel said. "If you wear your seat belt and properly buckle up young children, you can avoid a ticket -- or much worse if you're in a crash."

The rate of seat belt use on the Western Slope is about even with the state average of 79 percent.

But Capt. Brett Williams of State Patrol in Craig said drivers in Northwest Colorado sometimes think they don't need to put on their seat belts when they are driving around town.

When local drivers get on the highway, they usually buckle up, Williams said. But if they are making a trip to the store or somewhere else in town, drivers sometimes skip the seat belt, he said.

"Even around to town, you still need to wear your seatbelt," Williams said.

Williams said drivers should heed the adage about most traffic accidents happening within a few miles of the driver's home when they get behind the wheel.

Brandon Johansson can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 213, or bjohansson@craigdailypress.com.

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