The Santa Monica Police Department plans to “aggressively enforce” the state’s seat belt laws as part of California’s 2008 “Click It or Ticket” mobilization through Sunday, June 1st.

The campaign relies on heavy enforcement and public education as a means to help California achieve the highest seat belt-use rate in the nation, police said. California currently has the nation’s fourth highest seat belt-use rate at 94.6 percent.

“We want to make sure that all drivers and passengers buckle up on every ride, day and night,” said Santa Monica Police Chief Timothy Jackman. “Our officers will be on the lookout for those who are not buckled up and for teens and children not riding properly restrained. We will not accept excuses or give warnings. It’s Click It or Ticket.”

California has a primary seat belt law which requires every passenger in the car, including the driver, to wear a seat belt at all times. If stopped and found to be in violation, occupants will be issued a citation without warning, police said.

Tickets for first seat belt violations range from $80 to $91 for adults and $330 to $401 for children under age 16, depending on the county. Additionally, children age 12 and under are required to ride properly restrained in the back seat.

“We’re doing well with nearly 95 percent buckling up — fourth highest in the nation,” said Christopher J. Murphy, director of the California Office of Traffic Safety. “That’s 1.5 million more people protected from death and injury by using seatbelts since the Click It or Ticket campaign started in 2005. But we can do better yet. I urge everyone to always buckle up.”

While the buckle-up rate for adults has continued to climb in recent years, California’s seat belt use rate by teenagers lags behind the general population, police noted. In 2007, California’s teen seat belt use rate was 88.9 percent — well below the state rate of 94.6 percent for the same year.

More than 280 law enforcement agencies statewide are expected to participate in this year’s Click It or Ticket campaign

Funding for officer overtime to support the campaign was provided by a grant from the California Office of Traffic Safety through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Information, Sgt. Larry Horn of the Santa Monica Police Department Traffic Services Division, at (310) 458-8950.

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