Holidays bring tougher seat belt enforcement

With gas prices dropping, many will be driving to their relatives for Thanksgiving.

Starting Monday, expect to see a lot more police presence on and off the expressways, all in an effort to make sure you wear your safety belt.

"High visibility enforcement works. When people perceive law enforcement is out looking for those violators, they're more likely to buckle up than not," said Mike Witter, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

With the recent decline in gas prices, transportation officials now expect more people will be driving during the upcoming holiday. On the busiest Thanksgiving travel days, state police will have troopers on Chicago-area expressways every 10 miles. No warnings will be given for seat belt violations.

With compliance at more than 90 percent, Illinois has the 12th highest safety belt usage rate in the country. Chicago drivers fall right in line.

ABC7 rode with state police Monday morning, looking for seatbelt violators. We found shoulder riding and aggressive driving. But it took more than an hour to find a driver who wasn't buckled up.

To convince the 10 percent who still don't buckle up, the Illinois Dept. of Transportation will begin airing a series of public service announcements featuring NASCAR drivers.

Claude Alvarez knows the value of a safety belt. He was involved in a crash on I-88; his Jeep hit a barrier wall, it landed upside down.

"It took awhile to free myself from the safety belt, and then I crawled out on my own, and in the process the only injury that I sustained were two very minor scratches on the back of my hand that were hardly visible," he siad.

The click-it-or-ticket enforcement will continue through the end of the month.

The fine for a seatbelt citation is $55.

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