National parks forcing motorists to buckle up

January 16, 1998


Staff Writer

Since Oct. 1, police in Maryland have had the authority to pull over motorists for not wearing seat belts.

Now a similar law has been enacted - and taken one step further - in national parks.

Park rangers now have the authority to write a $25 ticket to anyone in a vehicle who isn't buckled up.

In Maryland, adults can only be ticketed by police if they're in the front seat, but in national parks an adult can be ticketed in the backseat as well.

The fine is the same: $25.

The law took effect on Dec. 19, but the National Park Service will likely be lenient with motorists and passengers until they get used to the new law.


"Anytime there's a new law - particularly one like this where it's to the person's benefit to abide by it - our main focus initially is to educate to a point," said Kevin Fitzgerald, chief of visitor and resource protection for C&O Canal National Historical Park, Sharpsburg.

"Then once you reach a point where you've given the public all the information you can give them, then it's time to get compliance through enforcement," he said.

A national park ranger is a federal law enforcement officer within the national parks, with authority to write tickets and power of arrest for violations, said Ed Wenschhof, chief of Natural Resources and protection at Antietam National Battlefield.

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