COLUMBIANA CO. Troopers buckle down on seat belts

Speed continues to be the leading cause of fatal accidents, the post commander said.
LISBON -- More Columbiana County motorists are paying for not wearing their seat belts this year, but they aren't paying with their lives.
Lt. George C. Williams, commander of the Ohio State Highway Patrol Lisbon post, said troopers continue to urge motorists to slow down and buckle up, and they're citing those who don't comply.
Troopers have issued about 35 percent more citations to motorists not wearing seat belts this year than they had at the same time last year, officials said.
There also have been fewer fatal crashes so far than in 2000. Troopers hope that statistic won't change by the end of the year.
Williams said most fatal crashes are the result of speeding and not wearing seat belts.
Speed continues to be the leading cause of traffic fatalities, followed by failure to yield the right of way, he said.
Troopers are conducting a targeted enforcement of an undisclosed section of the county this week, Williams said.
A special task force of troopers, which sometimes also includes county deputy sheriffs, spends one week each month in a designated area, specifically looking for motorists who aren't wearing their seat belts.
State law: Ohio law makes seat-belt noncompliance a secondary offense, meaning law enforcement officers cannot stop a motorist simply for not wearing a seat belt.
Williams said, however, that motorists stopped for speeding or an invalid registration, for example, shouldn't expect any leniency if they aren't wearing their seat belts.
He attributed much of the increase in citations for seat-belt noncompliance to the post's zero-tolerance policy.
Williams added that state law requiring motorists to buckle up has been in place since the mid-1980s, and residents or out-of-state drivers should know the law by now.
Williams said there have been eight fatal crashes on county highways so far in 2001, compared to 12 in 2000.
The Federal Highway Administration reported in 2000 that Columbiana County ranked lowest in the state in seat-belt use.
Williams said the results of the FHA's 2001 study won't be released until 2002, so he doesn't know if more residents are choosing to buckle up.

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