Local law enforcement: Use seat belt

Staff photo / Daniel Newman Austintown police officer Patrick Flara gives an Austintown Chick-fil-A customer a voucher Wednesday for a free sandwich for wearing her seatbelt through the drive-thru. It was part of law enforcement’s Click It or Ticket safety campaign. to reinforce seat belt usage.

AUSTINTOWN — Local law enforcement Wednesday gathered for the Mahoning County Click It or Ticket Kickoff in Austintown to remind the community about safe driving.

Mahoning County Safe Communities hosted the event in collaboration with Austintown Chick-fil-A, with help from the Ohio State Highway Patrol, Mahoning County Sheriff’s Office and Austintown Police Department.

“It’s kicking off the 100 days of safe driving for the summer,” said Mahoning Safe Communities Project Director Susan Viars. “So, we are leaning on our local law enforcement to not just give warnings, but to actually give people tickets for not wearing their seatbelts.”

Traffic safety tents were placed in the Mahoning Avenue restaurant’s parking lot with free traffic safety materials, including magnets, signs, banners, handouts, flyers, stickers, and temporary tattoos.

Visitors were given a chance to spin a trivia wheel to win prizes, raffles, coloring pages and other activities.

In addition, from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m., drive-thru customers who approached attendants with their seat belts buckled were offered a coupon for a free sandwich to use at another time.

“We’re thankful for what Chick-fil-A is doing with us,” Viars said.

The national seat belt campaign, which coincides with Memorial Day, runs May 13 through June 2. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in 2020 there were 10,893 unbuckled passenger vehicle occupants killed in crashes in the United States.


“Nationally, we have about a 90% seat belt compliance rate,” Lt. Eric Brown, commander of the Ohio State Highway Patrol’s post in Canfield, said. “But Ohio is right around about 82% seat belt compliance. And then when you break that down to Mahoning County, it’s about 72%. So there is some work that needs to be done here in Mahoning County with getting people to properly buckle up.”

Also, factors always present in fatal crashes are impaired driving and lack of seat belt usage, Brown said.

“If you wear a seat belt, there’s no doubt that it’s the easiest thing you can do to prevent serious injuries or death if you are involved in a traffic crash,” Brown said.

“There was recent legislation last week introduced in Columbus to make it a primary offense, and if it does become a primary enforceable offense, I think that you’re going to see the number of fatalities drop,” he said.

“I think it’s going to be a game changer, just like distracted driving has been. Give it some time. If we can make seat belts a primary offense, there’s no doubt that lives will be saved,” Brown said.

A seat belt violation also costs the motorist money in fines.

“Typically what I see with a lot of courts, it’s anywhere from $50 to $100,” Brown said. “And that depends on whether you are the passenger or the driver. A lot of times you could be ticketed, when stopping somebody for a moving violation, we’ll give them a warning on the moving violation. But we’re looking at the bigger issue as the seat belt violation. But it varies, and it depends on the violation. If it’s worthy of a citation, sometimes they’ll get both.”

Have an interesting story? Contact Daniel Newman by email at dnewmat@tribtoday.com. Follow him on X, formerly Twitter, @TribDNewman.


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