MARQUETTE — Fifteen years ago, Michigan adopted a law allowing law enforcement officers to stop motorists who were not wearing safety belts.
“For the next two weeks across all 83 counties in the State of Michigan, law enforcement — meaning Michigan State Police, local partners, Sheriff’s departments, township police departments are coordinating efforts to get motorists across the state to wear their seat belts,” said Captain John Halpin, District Commander of the Eighth District of the Michigan State Police.
To kick off the fifteenth annual Click It or Ticket campaign efforts in the area, officers from various agencies in Marquette County gathered at MDOT’s Marquette Welcome Center Monday morning to get the word out about seat belt safety. A seat belt banner was placed on the center as a reminder to buckle up.
“This is a very popular stop for people as they travel across the Upper Peninsula, so we look at it as a good opportunity to help raise seat belt awareness, and [we are] just trying to get everybody to buckle up and have a safe visit,” said Dan Weingarten, communications representative for the Michigan Department of Transportation’s Superior Region.
A large part of the Click It or Ticket campaign involves seat belt enforcement zones, which began popping up Monday morning. In these zones, drivers will see signs and law enforcement officers nearby looking out for unbuckled motorists. Getting spotted not wearing a belt will result in getting pulled over and issued a citation.
Police are hoping to remind the seven percent of drivers in Michigan who still don’t wear their belts that a ticket is not the only consequence of such an action.
“You know, I’ve been a policeman for 35 years working the road, and I can’t tell you how many times where I’ll pull up to an accident scene and you think, ‘oh, it’s that big a thing,’ and it will turn into a fatal, and it’s just because the person didn’t have their seatbelt on,” said Chief Greg Zyburt of the Chocolay Township Police Department.
“It’s proven that if somebody wears their seat belt, whether they’re driving the vehicle or they are a passenger in the vehicle, their chances of surviving a serious crash increase by 45 percent,” Halpin said.
“Over the weekend, I had an individual with me who didn’t put his seat belt on, and I subsequently stopped my truck and I said ‘get out.’ He wasn’t very happy with me, but I take it seriously personally, because I do believe that this saves lives,” said Undersheriff Michael Klein of the Marquette County Sheriff’s Office.
Police are also reminding people traveling over Memorial Day weekend to take their time, buckle up, and get there safely.