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El Dorado Police Department ramping up seat belt enforcement

Monday, May 15, 2017

Published by El Dorado News Times

EL DORADO — Starting today, the El Dorado Police Department will be stepping up seat belt enforcement as part of a nationwide campaign to encourage drivers and passengers to buckle up.

National Seat Belt Enforcement Mobilization, promoted by the U.S. Department of Transportation, begins today and will last until June 4.

Sgt. Chris Lutman, community relations supervisor for the El Dorado Police Department, said the department wanted to put citizens on notice about what they can expect for the next two weeks if they are not buckled up.

“In the past, we have issued numerous citations, but during this period, we will be less lenient. We will issue more citations and increase patrols,” Lutman said.

According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, the average national seat belt usage rate for 2016 was 90.1 percent, up from 88.5 percent the previous year.

In Arkansas, the seat belt usage rate went from 74.4 percent in 2014 to 77.5 percent in 2015.

At just over 97 percent, California had the highest seat belt usage in the nation in 2014, according to statistics compiled by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration.

The administration reported that nearly half of the 21,022 people who were killed in crashes in the U.S. in 2016 were not wearing a seat belt.

Working with the Arkansas State Police in 2016, the Arkansas Highway Safety Office made seat belt enforcement a top priority in the state.

In the Fiscal Year 2017 Highway Safety Plan, the AHSO reported that there was emphasis on increasing total enforcement and encouraging local agencies, including the El Dorado Police Department, “to address seat belt enforcement … at a much higher level.”

“Our goal is raising seat belt usages in the city, which currently in Union County, is under state standards,” Lutman said.

He reminded local residents that Arkansas’ seat belt law is a primary law, meaning that if stopped, a driver may be ticketed solely for not wearing a seat belt.

State law calls for drivers and all front-seat passengers to be buckled up.

If a driver has a restricted license, then all passengers in the vehicle must wear a seat belt.

Additionally, all passengers under the age of 15 must be properly secured at all times.

Children who are 6 -years-old and under and weigh less than 60 pounds must be restrained in a child safety seat.

The maximum fine for a seat belt violation is $25 for each person who is not restrained. Every passenger that is in violation may be fined, according to state statutes.

For more information, call Lutman at 870-881-4820.

Tia Lyons may be contacted at 870-862-6611 or by email at tlyons@ eldoradonews.com.