Originally created 05/20/00

'Deadbeat drivers' targeted



NORTH AUGUSTA - Adults who disregard the law and drive with unbuckled children are being given fair warning by the North Augusta Department of Public Safety: Buckle up or get a ticket.

"We can no longer tolerate children being injured and killed because drivers fail to buckle them up," Lt. Tim Pearson said.

The North Augusta Department of Public Safety is joining Operation ABC Mobilization, a nationwide law enforcement crackdown on what Lt. Pearson calls "deadbeat drivers," adults who drive without first restraining children in properly installed safety seats.

The crackdown begins Monday and continues through Labor Day weekend, the traditional beginning of summer when vacationers stream down the highways. Traffic patrol during the holiday weekend will be a multiagency effort, Lt. Pearson said, with specific emphasis on keeping drunken drivers off the road. But checkpoints throughout Aiken County also will ticket drivers if unrestrained children are in the vehicle.

"We'll have an obvious presence of law enforcement on the road during the holiday weekend," Lt. Pearson said.

According to information released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 13 percent of people who regularly drive children admit they don't always buckle them up. The mobilization effort really works, Lt. Pearson said.

He claims the nationwide crackdown's effort during the past three years has helped to increase the use of child restraints and to decrease child fatalities. National figures set the current restraint use for infants at 97 percent. For children between the ages of 1 and 4, it's 91 percent. The operative age in South Carolina is 6 for the use of special child restraints, but in South Carolina, all drivers and passengers by law must use seat belts.

"One out of three kids between the ages of 5 and 15 still rides unrestrained. That means millions of kids are at deadly risk," Lt. Pearson said.

Patrol officers in North Augusta will ticket any unbuckled driver or drivers with unrestrained children in their vehicles.

"There is nothing more frustrating than for us to see a small child jumping up and down in a car," the lieutenant said. "But we will be ticketing drivers who are not restrained or who have unrestrained children in the car with them. I don't know how much more clear we can make it."

Reach Pat Willis at (803) 279-6895 or scbureau@augustachronicle.com.