Fines for unbelted motorists increase


As more than 150 law enforcement organizations statewide and the California Highway Patrol prepare to kick off the first week of the state's annual "Click It or Ticket" seat belt advocacy campaign, Redwood City police plan to introduce unbelted motorists to something besides their safety restraints: a higher violation fine.

Fees and fines for not wearing one's seat belt while driving or riding in a moving vehicle in Redwood City have increased this year from $132 to $142 for first-time adult offenders, police Sgt. Ashley Osborne of the department's Traffic Unit said in a statement. Children under the age of 16 who fail to buckle up will be fined $445 for their first offense.

Because "heavy enforcement and public education" are the keys to a successful "Click It or Ticket" campaign, Osborne said, violators of seat belt restraint laws will immediately be cited, not warned.

Running through Nov. 28, police agencies and CHP officers throughout California will raise their vigilance in ensuring motorists properly buckle up when driving or riding in cars, Osborne said.

More than 600 permanent signs bearing the campaign's slogan and the fine amount that have been posted along highways in Redwood City since 2005 will be updated to show that the new minimum fine amount is $142, Osborne said.

Drivers, passengers, and children who wear their seat belts have a 50 percent better chance of surviving a car crash than those who don't buckle up, Osborne said. People ejected from vehicles during crashes because they are not properly restrained are 35 times more likely to die from the crash than restrained motorists, she said.

Though California's seat belt usage rate is at a formidable 96.2 percent, that still means that over one million Californians are driving without their seat belts on and are at risk, Osborne said.

The "Click It or Ticket" campaign is paid for by a grant from the state's Office of Traffic Safety through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

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