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Area police join annual effort to enforce seat belt laws

Brad AllenMay 22, 2019

Wisconsin residents will be reminded more frequently to buckle up during the next two weeks, and those who fail to heed the warning will face a small fine.

As part of the 10th annual Click-It or Ticket campaign, hundreds of police departments on Monday increased staff levels and enforcement of seat belt laws to raise awareness. Drivers could be cited for every unbuckled passenger in their vehicle.

According to the Wisconsin Department of Transportation, a seat belt ticket is $10.

“As we enter another major travel season, we’re reminding motorists that wearing a safety belt is the single most effective way to protect themselves and prevent needless tragedies along our roadways,” Sauk County Sheriff Chip Meister said in a statement.

Whether citizens are driving half a mile to the store or out of state for vacation, Baraboo Police Department Capt. Rob Sinden said it’s imperative to wear a seat belt, because doing so can save lives.

“It really doesn’t make any sense at all not to wear a seat belt anymore,” Sinden said.

He said police often see first-hand the severe and often unnecessary injuries people suffer in crashes due to not wearing seat belts, which leads police to seek increased awareness.

The Baraboo Police Department issues many seat belt citations every year, Sinden said. Officers issued 341 citations in 2016, 888 in 2017, 506 in 2018 and have issued 260 tickets to date in 2019.

In all of Wisconsin, a total of 50,875 seat belt tickets were issued in 2018, according to the Sauk County Sheriff’s Office.

Portage Police Chief Ken Manthey said it costs more money in terms of labor and time to issue a seat belt citation than the city earns from the ticket itself.

“We’re not doing it to earn money, we’re doing it to keep people alive,” Manthey said.

The Sauk County Highway Safety Task Force said in a statement that Wisconsin’s seat belt use rate stands at 89 percent. In 2018, roughly half of all motorists who died in vehicle accidents were not wearing a seat belt.

“Given a choice, we’d much rather write a ticket than have to knock on someone’s door and inform them that a loved one has been killed or seriously injured in a crash,” Sauk County Sheriff’s Office Lt. James Hodges said in a statement.

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