Police Chopper

Rule number one of the Internet should be to always read past the headline before hitting the keyboard to comment. A prime example comes from the latest press release from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The statement's headline implies that PA state troopers will be enforcing seatbelt use from aircraft flying overhead. Frankly, given the budget constraints of most states, we suspect that aerial traffic enforcement is enormously wasteful at best. But the idea of even detecting seatbelt use from the sky seems absurd on its face.

As it turns out, Pennsylvania's belt law only only allows for secondary enforcement anyway. That means if you drive unbelted past a trooper while still observing all other traffic edicts, you can't get pulled over. Hence, the Air, Land and Speed campaign that the Pennsylvania state police is undertaking this summer will be primarily focused on catching speeders and then giving them secondary tickets if they insist on being truly foolish by driving unrestrained.

[Source: Commonwealth of Pennsylvania | Image: Wikimedia Commons]
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PennDOT, State Police to Conduct Seat Belt Enforcement by Air, Land

Hundreds of Municipal Police Departments to Join 'Click It or Ticket' Effort

HARRISBURG, Pa., May 20 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- PennDOT and the Pennsylvania State Police will be introducing the Air, Land and Speed campaign as part of this year's Click It or Ticket seat belt enforcement effort, which runs from May 24 to June 13.

The Air, Land and Speed campaign will feature the State Police Aerial Reconnaissance and Enforcement (SPARE) program, which uses aircraft to clock motorists' speed and then radio to troopers on the ground to make the traffic stop. Approximately 450 municipal police departments will supplement the SPARE operations with traditional traffic enforcement along targeted roadways.

"Not wearing a seat belt continues to be one of the leading factors related to injuries and fatalities on Pennsylvania highways," said PennDOT Secretary Allen D. Biehler, P.E. "With the significant amount of traffic that we anticipate for the Memorial Day holiday weekend, this is a perfect time to remind motorists to take an extra few seconds and buckle up."

According to PennDOT, unrestrained fatalities dropped to a record-low of 451 in 2009, down from 567 in 2008. The 451 fatalities are the lowest since PennDOT began keeping records of that information in 1985.

Despite this decrease, nighttime seat belt use continues to be a major area of concern. More than half of all unbelted fatalities occurred between 6 p.m. and 5:59 a.m., including 139 between 10 p.m. and 2:59 a.m. To emphasize the importance of buckling up at all times, police will be dedicating the final week of the campaign to nighttime enforcement.

"Public safety is our number one priority," said State Police Commissioner Col. Frank E. Pawlowski. "Partnering with PennDOT and officers from municipalities across the state, troopers will enforce traffic laws that focus on speed and the use of restraint systems. The unique approach provided by the Air, Land and Speed campaign allows for varied resources to be used to protect citizens."

Under Pennsylvania's seat belt law, all front seat passengers are required to buckle up. If motorists are stopped for a traffic violation and not wearing their seat belt, they can receive a second ticket and second fine.

The state's primary child passenger safety law requires children under the age of four to be properly restrained in an approved child safety seat anywhere in the vehicle. Children ages 4 to 8 must be restrained in an appropriate booster seat when riding anywhere in a motor vehicle. In addition, children ages 8 to 18 must be in a seat belt when riding anywhere in the vehicle.

"Driving within the posted speed limit and ensuring you and all passengers are properly restrained is not only a good idea, it's the law. And we will be vigilant in ensuring those laws are followed," said Pawlowski.

Last year, state and local police departments issued more than 6,600 seat belt citations and more than 400 child safety seat violations. Research has shown that wearing a seat belt can increase your chances of survival by up to 60 percent if you are involved in a crash.

More information on seat belt safety can be found at www.DriveSafePA.org, click on "Traffic Safety Information Centers" at the top, then "Seat Belts."

Media contacts:
Alison Wenger, PennDOT; 717-783-8800
Lt. Myra A. Taylor, State Police; 717-783-5556

Source: Pennsylvania Department of Transportation

CONTACT: Alison Wenger, PennDOT, +1-717-783-8800; or Lt. Myra A. Taylor,
State Police, +1-717-783-5556

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