Steamboat Springs The Steamboat Springs Police Department is again participating in a nationwide program that encourages drivers to buckle up.
The Click It or Ticket campaign runs from May 21 to June 3.
"It's a nationwide campaign with the purpose of increasing seatbelt and child-safety-seat usage," said Steamboat Police Capt. Joel Rae. "It's a proven fact that seatbelts save lives."
Nationally, the program is stressing the importance of wearing seatbelts at night.
A National Highway Traffic Safety Administration study found that in 2005, more than 15,000 passenger vehicle occupants died in traffic crashes between the hours of 6 p.m. and 6 a.m. Nearly two-thirds of those killed were not wearing their seatbelts at the time of the crash. Survey results also show seatbelt use is 10 percent lower at night than it is during the day. Eighty-two percent of drivers report wearing seatbelts during the day.
A $1,200 grant allows Steamboat police to pay officers overtime, Rae said. That translates into officers working four-hour shifts during the two-week period to focus on finding violators.
"There is zero tolerance," Rae said. "If you get pulled over and don't have a seatbelt on, you will get a ticket."
Tickets for seatbelt violations are $50, and tickets for child-safety-seat violations are $80.
Rae said the program has been effective on the local level.
On May 14, a Steamboat community service officer surveyed the number of drivers on Lincoln Avenue who were wearing seatbelts. The survey revealed drivers in Steamboat were wearing seatbelts only 61 percent of time - 21 percent below the nationwide average.
"That's pretty disappointing," Rae said.
After the Click It or Ticket campaign, Rae said drivers on Lincoln Avenue would be surveyed again to determine whether there is an increase in compliance.
"Every year, we have been successful," Rae said.
Rae attributed the success to having police officers who are dedicated to traffic duty.
"Other times, we don't have that dedication," Rae said.
Neglecting to wear a seatbelt is not a primary traffic violation in Colorado, so officers cannot pull over a driver for only that reason. It is a primary violation, however, for a driver younger than 16 to drive without a seatbelt. It also is a primary violation to not have children in safety seats.