Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — NIAGARA FALLS — A long line of orange construction cones, reducing two lanes of traffic each way on Pine Avenue down to one lane.
A sign of the return of the summer road construction season?
No, a sign of the return of the Buckle Up New York campaign and the national Click it or Ticket enforcement program with Falls police.
“As we kick off the busy summer driving season, it’s important that everyone buckles up every time they go out, both day and night, no excuses,” Falls Police Superintendent Bryan DalPorto said.
Through the end of the month, Falls police will use a combination of checkpoints and roving patrols to make sure motorists are buckling up. Despite continued warnings, Traffic Division Capt. Angela Munn said her observations have shown people need to be reminded to “click it.”
“In preparing for our checkpoint, I went out Tuesday night and did some reconnaissance at the location,” Munn said. “There were a lot of people who were driving without seat belts.”
While Buckle Up New York and Click It or Ticket are year-round campaigns and programs, Munn said this “May mobolization” is designed to get a message out in advance of the Memorial Day weekend, the traditional start of the heavy summer driving season.
“A lot more people are traveling by vehicle in the summer time and we want to remind them of the importance of seat belts,” Munn said. “We would rather have them get a ticket and remember to wear their seat belt, than have an accident without wearing a belt and suffer a serious injury or lose a loved one.”
The U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports 52 percent of the 21,253 passenger vehicle occupants killed in 2011 were not wearing their seat belts at the time of the crash. Deaths from not using seat belys are even higher at night and in the early morning hours.
The NHTSA reports 62 percent of the 10,135 passenger vehicle occupants who were killed in 2011, died between the hours of 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. and were not wearing their seat belts at the time of the crash.
A single car crash that took the life of a Falls teenager on Walmore Road in Lewiston took place at 6 a.m. May 19 and neither the victim nor two other occupants of the vehicle were wearing seat belts.
“Seat belts save thousands of lives every year, but far too many motorists are still not buckling up, especially at night when the risk of getting in a crash is even greater,” DalPorto said. “We want everyone to have a safe summer, but it requires an important step on the part of motorists, clicking that seat belt.”
While not wearing a seat belt can cost you your life, The NHTSA estimates that, in 2011, seat belts saved 11,949 lives nationwide.
Munn said her officers wrote 60 citations during their Pine Avenue checkpoint. While some were for expired inspections or registrations and cell phone use, the majority involved a failure to wear a seat belt.
“Our message is, you need to wear your seat belt,” Munn said. “And we’ll keep focusing on that.”