Hoping to curb traffic deaths during the Memorial Day weekend, the Richmond County Sheriff's Office announced a crackdown Thursday on those not wearing seat belts and child safety restraints .
The "Click it or Ticket" campaign will enforce the use of belts and seats from Monday to June 2. Authorities - joining more than 11,000 law enforcement agencies nationwide - hope the threat of a ticket will make people buckle up.
"There aren't going to be any warnings during this period," said Richmond County Sheriff's Lt. Bill Manecke. "We have a 79 percent usage rate in Georgia for seat belts and safety restraints. We want to get that up to 83 percent by the end of this enforcement period.
"This increase will enable us to save an additional 101 lives for wearing seat belts."
Last year, 26 people were killed in county traffic accidents. There have been 10 traffic-related fatalities so far this year.
Lt. Manecke said two people killed this year were ejected from their vehicle. Their deaths could have been prevented if they had been wearing a seat belt, he said.
"Bad accidents do occur, but wearing a seat belt can keep you in that vehicle and save your life," he said.
Although the program will be enforced on all drivers, officials hope to target young people behind the wheel.
"Many young people think they are invincible, (and) messages about safety benefits of seat belts fall on deaf ears," said Chuck Hurley, executive director of the Air Bag & Seat Belt Safety Campaign.
"We don't want to give out tickets, we want to give people a reason to buckle up," he said. "The threat of a ticket and fines ... will do that."
The Richmond County Sheriff's Office participates in four seat belt enforcement programs each year during heavy driving periods - February, Memorial Day and Labor Day weekends and Thanksgiving.
Lt. Manecke said the fine for being unbuckled is $25 for an adult and $15 for child restraint seats. Signs about the campaign will be posted along Augusta roads by next week, he said.
"We have a 79 percent usage rate in Georgia for seat belts and safety restraints. We want to get that up to 83 percent by the end of this enforcement period. This increase will enable us to save an additional 101 lives for wearing seat belts. - Lt. Bill Manecke, Richmond County Sheriff's Office
Reach Albert Ross at (706) 823-3339 or firstname.lastname@example.org.