Connecticut officials have partnered with local police agencies to step up enforcement of seat belt laws over the next few days, during the “Click It Or Ticket Campaign,” but they assure all residents that they will be on the lookout for all traffic safety violations, including distracted driving.
The Connecticut State Police and town departments have been using social media to publicize awareness around seat belt safety as the Memorial Day weekend arrives, with some readers commenting that there needs to be attention to distracted driving and speeding.
“I know it must be hard to catch drivers with the phone, but that would be a more impactful safety campaign than seat belts,” one Facebook user said.
State police spokesman Pedro A. Muñiz said that while “Click It Or Ticket” is a specific awareness campaign, police are certainly enforcing all traffic safety laws.
“The Connecticut State Police have and will continue to enforce all laws here in Connecticut,” Muñiz said in an email. “When there is a campaign to promote awareness of something specific (for example, the Click It or Ticket campaign), grants are generally provided to states to provide extra enforcement for these initiatives.”
For example, Enfield police this year received more than $10,000 in grant funding for seat belt enforcement.
Muñiz said there was a similar campaign to raise awareness about the use of cell phones and driving during Distracted Driving Awareness Month, which was in April, during which law enforcement increased their efforts to deter people from texting and driving.
“While these campaigns are running, our Troopers continue to enforce all laws here in Connecticut,” he said.
Sgt. Matthew Meier, Enfield’s Traffic Division Supervisor, said that department also received grant funding for DUI (driving under the influence) enforcement.
“We do focus on a bunch of different areas,” Meier said.
“Click It or Ticket” is a national campaign by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). On May 23, officials ran a “Border 2 Border” initiative, which is a one-day event that kicks off seat belt awareness. Connecticut State Police worked with local departments in Enfield, Stonington, and Westerly, Rhode Island, as well as the Massachusetts State Police, to increase enforcement and to educate the public.
“Click It or Ticket” started May 16 and will run through June 5.
Connecticut law requires all drivers and passengers in the front and back seats to wear seatbelts. The fine for a violation is $92. According to the NHTSA, there were nearly 10,900 deaths nationally that were a result of people not wearing seat belts.
Juliet Little, a highway safety management specialist with the state Department of Transportation, said that preliminary data from 2021 shows that 118 state residents died as a result of not wearing a seat belt.
“The file for last year is not closed yet, so that number could probably be higher,” Little said. “If there’s a high-profile crash, and someone is ejected, it is a news story but when that news story is no longer present, that family still has to deal with that loss.”
Little said, adding the seat belt awareness campaign happens twice during the year, once around Memorial Day and another one around Thanksgiving.
While the current seat belt compliance rate is 91.5%, down from 93.7% in 2019, that rate is still high and is, in part, the result of the awareness raised around safety, Little said.