- The Washington Times - Monday, May 19, 2003

BALTIMORE (AP) — Police hope that a two-week buckle-up initiative will help ingrain Maryland drivers in the habit of wearing seat belts, as local and state police gathered yesterday to announce the drive.

“Police officers don’t enjoy pulling out their ticket books, but it’s a lot better than pulling dead or seriously injured people out of motor vehicle crashes where a seat belt would have made all the difference,” said Greenbelt Police Chief James R. Craze, president of the Maryland Chiefs of Police Association.

“The threat of a ticket backed up by a strong enforcement works because it gets people to buckle up, but more importantly, it saves lives,” he added.

Chief Craze spoke to representatives from more than 125 Maryland law- enforcement agencies who gathered at ESPN Zone in Baltimore for a brunch marking the kickoff.

Starting yesterday, police will set up more than 100 checkpoints across the state over the next two weeks to spot-check drivers on seat-belt use. Baltimore Police Commissioner Kevin Clark, who hosted the event, said the checkpoints would target areas that had been the scenes of multiple crashes.

If caught not wearing a seat belt, adult drivers and passengers will be fined $25 apiece. Drivers can be fined $48 for each child who is not properly secured, said Barbara Beckett, executive director of the Maryland Committee for Seat Belt Use.

“A lot of people thank you when they get pulled over, you’d be surprised,” Miss Beckett said. “No one likes to be pulled over, but when it saves lives, it’s worth it.”

The initiative is part of a national “Click It or Ticket” program, which will involve 12,000 allied agencies in the 50 states, the District and Puerto Rico.

The federal Transportation Department intends to push the national average of seat-belt usage up from 75 percent to 78 percent.

“By reaching our goal, more than 700 additional lives will be saved every year and nearly 12,000 more Americans will be spared serious injury,” said Annette Sandberg, administrator-designate of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

Maryland is above the national average, with 86 percent of drivers in the state buckling up, but “we can do better than that. We should aim for 100 percent,” Commissioner Clark said.

Miss Beckett said the initiative would target young adults and teens. In 2001, 5,341 teenagers were killed in accidents in the United States. Two-thirds of those who died were not wearing seat belts.

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