Police enforce seatbelt laws over holiday weekend

November 24, 2009 (CHICAGO) In spite of the economy, travel experts say the number of people driving to their Thanksgiving day destination will be up more than 2 percent. At the same time, state officials say traffic fatalities in Illinois are at their lowest since 1923. They credit much of this to strict seatbelt laws.

"This year marks the sixth anniversary of the Illinois primary seatbelt law. During that time, safety belt usage has risen from 76.2 percent to almost 92 percent," said Micael Stout, IDOT Division of Traffic Safety.

They're not about to let up now! The latest click-it-or-ticket seatbelt enforcement is underway, with extra enforcements on highways, city and county streets throughout the state.

Historically, the majority of fatal crashes happen at night. Many times those involved are not wearing seatbelts -- so this holiday enforcement, Illinois State Police will have a special nighttime seatbelt detail.

"Sometimes they could have a roving patrol, which is concentrated heavily on a certain area, or they'll have a roadside check where there are actual signs posted," said Trooper Frank Biamonte, Illinois State Police.

"This Thanksgiving, 50 percent of our click-it-or-ticket focus will be nighttime efforts. If you drive at night, you're in our sight," said Deputy Superintendent Daniel Dugan, Chicago Police Department.

In addition to increased seatbelt enforcement, police will be cracking down on the rest of the so-called fatal-five: speeding, DUI, improper lane usage and following too closely.

While the Thanksgiving traffic safety blitz focuses on this week, another highway safety campaign will continue through the end of the year, involving more than 400 law enforcement agencies statewide.

"We've asked them to make more DUI arrests, we've asked them to give more seatbelt citations, simply we've asked them to do whatever they can to protect our highways and save lives," Stout said.

Officials give this bit of travel advice: give yourself some extra time. Driving becomes less aggressive when you're not in such a hurry.

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