NORTH PLAINFIELD, NJ – That good looking guy standing casually on the sidewalk over by Eddy’s Kitchen at the Somerset Street overpass or walking near DiMola’s Pizza on Route 22 may be more than just another happy shopper. He might be a plain clothed North Plainfield police officer watching cars go to identify cars with drivers not wearing seatbelts.
And radioing ahead to another officer in a cruiser who will give out tickets.
“The primary focus for this effort is on drivers and passengers not wearing seatbelts,” said North Plainfield Chief of Police William Parenti. “If they spot another violation they will enforce that as well.”
The effort is part of the annual Click It or Ticket campaign during the month of May and is funded by a New Jersey Division of Highway Safety grant. The $4,000 grant pays for overtime for officers involved in the enforcement effort, allowing the borough to maintain its regular staffing and patrol schedules.
The state also funds a media campaign to educate the public on the laws regarding seat belt use, and the safety issues the laws are intended to address.
New Jersey law requires all people in a passenger vehicle to wear a seatbelt when the car, van or pickup is moving. Police can pull over cars with drivers not wearing seatbelts, but passengers is a secondary offense and can only be issued if there was a primary ticket issued. Adult passengers are responsible for their own seat belt use and can be issued their own summons, but drivers are responsible for all minors in the vehicle.
First time offenses receive a ticket and a $45 fine, and the fines rise with multiple offenses.
According to the Division of Highway Safety more than 2000 people not wearing seatbelts died in car crashes over the past ten years, and 700 unbuckled passengers and drivers were completely thrown from their cars.
Seat belts not only save lives, the Division says, but also reduces injuries during accidents.
In April the North Plainfield Police performed a similar effort to educate the public on distracted driving, and issued more than 40 tickets in just two hours. The Click It or Ticket effort is for the entire month of May, and hundreds of tickets are issued.
Parenti noted that before the Click It or Ticket campaign and laws requiring seat belt use only eight percent of people wore them, but after a decade of public stops and awareness campaigns the number of people wearing seat belts in moving vehicles rose above 85 percent.
“The Click It or Ticket program has been a significant success,” said Parenti. “It saves lives every day of the year.”