COLUMBIA — Officers from the Columbia Police Department will work overtime in the next two weeks as part of the annual statewide Click It or Ticket enforcement campaign.
Capt. Tim Hull, director of public information for the Missouri State Highway Patrol, said this campaign’s goal is simple: It aims to spread the word about the seriousness of driving safety measures, such as seat belt and child restraint requirements.
Even though these policies are always in place, nearly 25 percent of Missouri drivers and passengers didn’t use seat belts in 2008, according to the Missouri Coalition for Roadway Safety.
“We don’t just enforce this during the two weeks,” Hull said. “We enforce it all year around.”
Drivers who are caught without their seat belt on will be ticketed. They can also be ticketed for each unbuckled passenger in the vehicle younger than 16, Hull said. Unbuckled front-seat passengers will also receive tickets if they are 16 or older.
Columbia Police Sgt. Shelley Jones said officers cannot pull over drivers solely for seat-belt checks or child-restraint-system checks, but drivers should be aware officers are being more strict about these violations. Drivers pulled over for usual offenses, such as speeding or non-licensed vehicles, can expect more attention on seat belts and child-restraint systems in these situations .
The campaign, a project of the Missouri Safety Center, Missouri Department of Transportation and the Missouri Highway Safety Patrol, relies on each Missouri town to use its police department for extra patrolling efforts. The Missouri Safety Center has given grants in order to make this extra patrolling possible in Columbia through May 31.
The grants usually go to departments in high-accident areas, said Ralph Stewart, Missouri Safety Center’s state sobriety training coordinator.
“Missouri has a bad reputation, and it’s well deserved,” Stewart said, explaining that Columbia is one of the most accident-prone cities in the state.
In 2007, Columbia ranked fourth in the state for the number of urban traffic fatalities, with 10 killed that year, according to the 2008 Missouri Traffic Crashes report.
However, Hull said the number of fatalities in the state has fallen drastically in the past few years, and there’s an 18 percent decrease compared with this time last year. He said public awareness efforts about driving safety precautions and MoDOT engineering changes, such as adding cables to highway dividers, contributed to the decrease of nearly 300 deaths between 2005 and 2008.