BENNINGTON -- Local police will be conducting extra patrols until the end of the month looking to enforce seatbelt laws.
Bennington Police Lt. Lloyd Dean said his agency has received $9,000 from the Vermont Governor’s Highway Safety Program to conduct nine additional patrols as well as a number of check-points. This will be part of the national "Click It or Ticket" campaign.
Bennington Police are also working with Vermont State Police, Dean said. Their efforts began Monday with checkpoints at various locations along the Vermont and New York border. New York authorities are also assisting.
"Memorial Day weekend kicks off summer vacation season, and we want to ensure that everyone arrives at their destination safe and sound," said Bennington Police Chief Paul Doucette in a release. "If you are not wearing your seatbelt you will be ticketed."
In Vermont, seat belt violations are considered secondary violations. An officer must stop a vehicle for another reason, but then the operator can be ticketed for lack of seatbelts.
According to Tom Fields, law enforcement liaison with the Vermont Department of Public Safety, last year 70 people were killed in car crashes. Of those, 24 were not wearing seatbelts.
Last week, four people were involved in a rollover crash on South Stream Road, none of whom were wearing seatbelts, according to police. One was taken to Albany Medical Center in Albany, N.Y., with injuries to her legs. Two others were taken to Southwestern Vermont Medical Center with non-life threatening injuries, and the fourth refused medical attention.
Dean cited data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration showing that traffic fatalities are up nationwide for the first time in five years.
"We are determined to help bring these numbers down," said Dean in a release. "There are too many people dying on the roads, and many of those deaths could have been prevented if people took the simple step of wearing their seatbelt."
The campaign began Monday and will run to June 1, but seatbelt enforcement continued year-round, Dean said.
Contact Keith Whitcomb Jr. at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @KWhitcombjr.