Officers to be out in force |

Officers to be out in force

Police promise to crack down on those who don't buckle up

— During this holiday weekend, Steamboat Springs Police officers will have zero tolerance for drivers or passengers who are not buckled up.

“If you or your kids do not have a seat belt on, you will get a ticket,” said Steamboat Springs Assistant Police Chief Art Fiebing.

The Police Department is one of more than 10,000 law enforcement agencies throughout the country participating in Operation ABC Mobilization: America Buckles Up Children.

The largest-ever crackdown on drivers who don’t buckle and buckle children started Monday and will conclude on Memorial Day.

“We are enforcing seat belt use for adults, but we are especially making sure children are buckled up,” Fiebing said. “We will hit it real hard this weekend.

“The whole purpose is to promote seat belt use and lower fatalities, especially among children.”

According to the initiative, the leading cause of death for children ages 6 to 14 is traffic crashes. More than 2,000 children die in traffic crashes each year.

In Colorado, 33 children 16 or younger died in traffic accidents in 1999. Of those, 20 were not wearing seat belts.

The percentages are similar for adult fatalities in the state. In 1999, there were 446 deaths because of traffic crashes. Of those who died, 271 were not wearing seat belts.

“The statistics are incredible,” Fiebing said. “If you get into a crash without a seat belt, the chances of survival are much less.”

Fiebing believes that through the years, seat belt use by motorists has increased because of awareness and education.

However, Fiebing stressed it is important for adults to safely restrain children in vehicles.

“We don’t write a lot of seat belt tickets,” he said. “People do pretty good out here.

“But when a person does not use a seat belt or does not restrain their children, they are jeopardizing their life or the children’s lives.”

Research shows that adults who buckle up are more likely to properly restrain children.

According to statistics in Colorado, when a driver uses a seat belt, restraint use for children 3 and younger is 93 percent and 72 percent for children ages 4 to 15.

When a driver is not wearing a seat belt, restraint for children 3 or younger drops to 56 percent and even lower to 11 percent for children ages 4 to 15.

“It is the adult’s responsibility to make sure children are wearing seat belts or are properly restrained in a car seat,” Fiebing said.

During this weekend, Fiebing expects officers on duty to use strict discretion when stopping a vehicle where occupants are not buckled up.

In Colorado, an officer has the power to stop a vehicle when any person 15 or younger is not properly restrained in a seat belt or a car seat.

An officer cannot stop a car filled with adults for a seat belt violation.

“If they are all over 15, the driver needs to commit another traffic offense before we can stop them,” he said.

A person who is given a ticket for a seat belt violation faces a fine. According to state statutes, a $50 fine is imposed for any child 15 and younger who is not wearing a seat belt.

A $15 fine can be imposed for any adult not wearing a seat belt.

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