“When he [the officer] pulled me over, there was really no chance of talking my way out of it,” he admitted. “I screwed up—and now I’ll have to pay the price.”
Smith isn’t alone—in fact, he is one of many drivers across Maui County who have been issued citations by officers in an effort to step up enforcement of seatbelt compliance.
“Since it [the seat belt law] was enacted, we’ve been taking enforcement very seriously,” said Lt. Robert Hill, commander of the Maui Police Department’s (MPD) Traffic Section.
From May 23 to June 5, the “Click It Or Ticket” enforcement effort yielded a total of 255 traffic citations across Maui County. Of the 255, seat belt citations accounted for 185, a significant decrease from 504 citations issued in last year’s campaign.
This year’s “Click It Or Ticket” campaign was no exception.
From May 23 to June 5, Lt. Hill said officers from all districts across the county focused on drivers who were not wearing their seat belts, or not properly restraining children in their vehicles. The crusade to “buckle down” on seat belt violators took place during officers’ work hours and on overtime, he said. And these efforts were not solely intended to penalize those sitting directly behind the wheel, said Lt. Hill, as seat belt citations were issued to both drivers and passengers who were not buckled up.
In a recent press release, MPD announced the results of the 2011 “Click It Or Ticket” campaign. In the two-week period, the enforcement effort yielded a total of 255 traffic citations across Maui County. Of the 255, seat belt citations accounted for 185, a significant decrease from 504 citations issued in last year’s “Click It Or Ticket” campaign. While Lt. Hill is pleased to see such a significant decline in seat belt violations, he also said he hopes to see the day when everyone buckles up before they put the car in “drive.”
This hope stems from what he has witnessed during his 25 years as a police officer. “I’ve seen enough to know that seat belts save lives,” he said.
In addition to seat belt violations, this year’s campaign also netted 28 electronic device citations (talking, texting or Internet browsing on cellular phones and/or using other unpermitted electronic devices while driving), as well as 42 “other” citations (which includes licensing and regulatory violations) and three arrests for Operating Under the Influence (OUI). The press release issued by MPD also noted that there were two nighttime enforcement operations targeting heavy traffic areas throughout the period of the campaign—one stationed on Market Street in Wailuku Town, the other located along South Kīhei Road.
For most island drivers, buckling up behind the wheel (or seated in the passenger seat, for that matter) is just plain common sense.
As for the annual “Click It Or Ticket” crusade, there are many residents who aren’t opposed to the extra enforcement. Jason Sanchez, of Ha‘ikū, believes the campaign is a good thing. “It’s a healthy reminder that generates revenue for the state,” he said.
Hill said the monies collected from the traffic citations are given to the state general fund, which provides expenditures for public education, transportation, public assistance and Medicaid.
Even Smith—who still winces at the memory of the officer handing him a $97 citation through his driver’s side window—cautions other drivers to wear their seat belts. “It takes five seconds to do it,” he said, “and it’s not just about saving some dough, it could also save your life.”