More than 80 seat belt violations were issued Monday when seven Oklahoma Highway Patrol troopers and local law enforcement agencies launched the annual “Click It or Ticket” nationwide campaign in Carter County.
“We conducted the saturation in Healdton, Wilson, Lone Grove and Ardmore,” said Capt. Ronnie Hampton, commander OHP Troop F, headquartered in Ardmore, adding the special emphasis continues through June 1.
By Tuesday afternoon, the numbers of seat belt violations continued to rise. But Hampton said those who chose not to buckle up weren’t the only ones catching the eyes of troopers and officers participating in the mobilization. Two extremely intoxicated daytime drivers were apprehended Tuesday. In fact, one of the drivers was so high on prescription drugs, he couldn’t maintain consciousness and had to be transported to the emergency room. Hampton said the astonishing numbers of daytime drunk drivers, particularly those intoxicated on prescription medications, continue to be a very real hazard on area streets and roads.
This year, the “Click It or Ticket” campaign throughout Troop F (Carter, Johnston, Love, Marshall, Murray, Garvin and Pontotoc counties) is being conducted within the city limits of various communities. And the in-town campaign is drawing questions from area citizens.
“I have several calls from people wanting to know why we’re writing tickets on city streets,” Hampton said. “We are working on the theory that the in-town driver with no seat belt on or intoxicated driver is driving slower than they will be when they get out on the road. We don’t want to sit nine miles out of town waiting to catch them. We’re trying to work in town to prevent out-of-town crashes.”
And the numbers back up Hampton’s theory that in town is the place to prevent out-of-town crashes. In 2012 in Oklahoma, 708 people died on roadways. Restraint use was known in 477 of those fatal crashes. Of that number, more than 57 percent of the victims were not buckled up. And almost 50 percent were ejected from the vehicle.
Oklahoma law requires drivers and front-seat passengers age 13 and older to have a safety belt properly fastened at all times the vehicle is being operated. Children age 12 and younger are required to be properly restrained in the appropriate car seat, booster seat or seat belt, according to the child’s age and weight.
Are seat belts important? The National Highway Transportation Administration estimates seat belts save about 13,000 lives each year.
Hampton said troopers can’t force drivers to wear their seat belts or make sure their passengers and children are buckled up. What the “Click It or Ticket” campaign does is remind motorists that not buckling up means risking a ticket and risking lives.