By LISA M. REED
IRON MOUNTAIN - As Memorial Day approaches and a lot more motorists taking to the roadways this summer, troopers from the Michigan State Police Iron Mountain Post are focusing on a seat belt safety initiative.
Lisa M. Reed/Daily News Photo
Geno Basanese, community service trooper for the Michigan State Police Iron Mountain Post, stands next to the sign in front of the Iron Mountain State Police Post that reads “Click me... Enforcement Zones in Effect.” Troopers from the post are focusing on a seat belt safety.
F/Lt. Christine Grabowski, Michigan State Police, Iron Mountain Post Commander, said that each state police post was tasked with a safety initiative and her post chose to focus on increasing safety belt usage.
Following two surveys conducted in Dickinson and Iron counties, safety belt use was at 70 percent, she said.
In 2012, seat belt use statewide hit 93.6 percent, down from the all-time high of 97.9 percent in 2009.
The initiative combines high visibility enforcement and intense publicity to remind motorists about the state's seat belt law and the importance of buckling up.
"Despite a high observed belt use rate, we know that about half of the vehicle occupants who die in crashes are unbelted," said Grabowski. "This mobilization seeks to ultimately save lives and reduce injuries."
Grabowski said that 12,000 people could have lived in 2010 if they had been wearing their seat belt.
"Each percentage point brings in injury and death," she said. "This is a preventable death. Seat belts save lives."
Geno Basanese, community service trooper for Michigan State Police Iron Mountain Post, said wearing a seat belt became law in 1965.
The post is touting this initiative as "Travel safe, buckle up."
Troopers will have a zero tolerance for those not wearing a seat belt.
Those not wearing their seat belt will be issued a citation. There will be no warning and no excuses for not buckling up, officials said.
Cost of a citation is $65 in a private vehicle and $80 in a commercial vehicle, according to Dickinson County District Court officials.
The initiative is similar to Click It or Ticket, but will be enforced throughout the year.
The local post is also planning an open house next month to help raise public awareness of enforcement duties.
Troopers are also jointing counterparts from across the country in the international traffic safety initiative, Operation C.A.R.E. (Combined Accident Reduction Effort).
"Be warned that as part of Operation C.A.R.E. and the statewide Click It or Ticket safety belt enforcement campaign, troopers will take a zero-tolerance approach to unbuckled motorists," said Col. Kriste Kibbey Etue, director of the MSP. "In addition to looking for safety belt and child restraint violations, troopers will be on the lookout for drivers who are under the influence of alcohol or are driving in a reckless and unsafe manner."
Last year, there were nine fatal traffic crashes resulted in 10 deaths over the Memorial Day weekend, which begins at 6 p.m. today and ends at 11:59 p.m. on Monday.
Of those who died, three were not wearing a seat belt.
Click It or Ticket enforcement mobilization started May 20 and runs to June 2.
Motorists are 75 percent less likely to be killed in a rollover crash if they are buckled up.
High-visibility enforcement is credited with increasing the national seat belt usage rate from 58 percent in 1994 to an estimated observed usage rate of 86 percent in 2012- an all-time high rate.
Most at risk are young people and men, ages 18 to 34. Of those killed fatal crashes in 2011, 64 percent were not buckled up at the time of the crash. This is the highest percentage of any age group. The number jumps to 66 percent when only men in this age group are included.
Other state police posts initiatives include Kelsey's Law for distracted driving, checking for commercial driver's license and making sure motorists are stopping at stop lights.
The more someone wears their seat belt, the more it becomes a habit.
Advertising, community outreach, well-marked enforcement zones, and patrols are meant to increase seat belt use.
Lisa M. Reed's e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.