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Police starting safety campaign

April 08, 2004|by BRIAN SHAPPELL

shappell@herald-mail.com

Area police agencies are taking part in a two-month nationwide campaign to enforce the use of seat belts and child safety seats.

The local campaign, called the Maryland Chiefs Seatbelt Challenge, started Tuesday and will continue through June 6.

The Washington County Sheriff's Departments, the Smithsburg Police Department and Maryland State Police are among the agencies taking part in the campaign.

Sheriff's department Cpl. Daryl Sanders said deputies will issue citations rather than warnings to people not wearing seat belts.

He said the campaign is part of the state's goal to increase seat belt compliance to 90 percent. In 2003, the compliance rate for seat belt usage in Maryland was 88 percent, according to information provided by the Smithsburg Police Department.

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The program is run in conjunction with the International Association of Chiefs of Police's National Chiefs Challenge.

Smithsburg Police Officer James "J.R." Bowers, who attended a Maryland Chief's Seatbelt Challenge meeting in Cumberland, Md., said more than 35 police agencies are taking part in the Maryland program.

Bowers said agencies will send officers to busy roads for one day, probably this week, to survey how many motorists are not wearing seat belts and how many children are not in proper restraints. He said motorists will not be pulled over during the survey period.

The results will be sent to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for tracking.

Bowers said officers will go through a period of about two months in which citations will be issued instead of warnings.

"You write as many tickets as possible in a two-month period," he said. "Then, you take a second survey to track how you progressed over the two months."

Bowers said awards will be issued to agencies with the best compliance percentage at the end of the challenge.

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