standing Police Siren Generic

Heading out for Memorial Day weekend? Local police are urging to buckle up — and warning that not doing so could result in fines.

Westerly and Stonington police are teaming up ahead of the Memorial Day holiday to take part in a joint operation titled "Border to Border," which began Monday and will continue through June 2. The effort is part of the annual Click It or Ticket seatbelt enforcement campaign hosted through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in partnership with law enforcement throughout the U.S.

State police in Rhode Island and Connecticut will also be participating in the annual enforcement.

"As we kick off the busy summer driving season, it is critical that everyone buckles up every time they go out, day or night — no excuses," Westerly Police Capt. Steven Johnson said. "Our officers are prepared to ticket anyone who is not wearing a seatbelt, including drivers that have neglected to properly buckle their children."

According to NHTSA data, those wearing a seatbelt are 50 percent less likely to get killed or seriously injured in a motor vehicle crash. From 1975 through 2017, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that seat belts have saved an estimate 374,196 lives, including 14,955 in 2017 alone.

Stonington Police Sgt. Keith Beebe said the enforcement, which includes mutual partnership between Westerly and Stonington police, as well as state police in each state, will include a variety of roving patrols and seatbelt checkpoints designed to encourage compliance.

In Rhode Island, Johnson said officers will utilize the roving patrols. Checkpoints that require cars to stop are not allowed under state law.

Both agencies said the efforts are done ahead of the summer travel season in order to encourage smart travel habits ahead of vacation season. The true goal, both agencies said, is to gain compliance and prevent tragedy.

"Seatbelts save thousands of lives every year, but far too many motorists are still not buckling up," Johnson said. "We want to make this the safest summer possible. Buckling up is not optional — it is the difference between life and death in a crash. That's why we are out here enforcing the law."

jvallee@thewesterlysun.com

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