Fifty-four percent of Steam--boat Springs drivers wear their seat belts, according to a survey done by the Steamboat Springs Police Department this week.
Police officers hope an upcoming enforcement campaign will increase that number.
The new campaign will begin Monday and will run through June 6, Steamboat Springs police Capt. Joel Rae said. The program is the result of a $1,500 grant that was given to Steamboat from the Colorado Department of Transportation.
"What this means for citizens is that if they're not wearing a seat belt, they're going to get a ticket," Rae said.
Ten officers will be designated to work five-hour shifts across town, looking for people in violation of seat-belt laws, especially child safety regulations.
The law requires drivers and front-seat passengers to wear their seat belts. When applied to adults, the law is a secondary offense, meaning a driver cannot be stopped only because he or she is not wearing a seat belt. However, if officers stop a car for another offense, such as speeding or running a stop sign, and they discover a seat-belt violation, they can issue a ticket. The fines will be $50 for an adult violation and $80 for a child violation, in addition to fines for other infractions.
However, child-safety laws are primary offenses, and officers can stop a driver and issue a ticket for unrestrained or improperly belted children.
When the campaign ends in June, police will take another survey of seat-belt usage to see what effect, if any, the crackdown had.
According to CDOT statistics, the statewide seat belt use rate is 79 percent. The new state goal is 82 percent. Of the 502 drivers and passengers who died in traffic accidents last year in Colorado, only 44 percent were using seat belts.
"The real goal is to increase awareness and education of the laws and safety especially amongst young drivers," Rae said.
Steamboat and Routt County are not the only areas in Colorado being affected by the campaign. Seat-belt enforcement also is set to begin in Prowers, Boulder, Pueblo, and La Plata counties Monday. The state is focusing that campaign mainly on pickups, CDOT Executive Director Tom Norton said.
"In Colorado, pickup truck drivers are the least likely to buckle up when compared to drivers of other vehicles. The fact is trucks are twice as likely to roll as other vehicles," Norton said.