Police pull over drivers to hand them $25 tickets for not wearing safety belts Checkpoint catches 44 as part of statewide effort

May 15, 1998|By Del Quentin Wilber | Del Quentin Wilber,SUN STAFF

Michael Collins, a West Friendship volunteer firefighter, has responded to serious accidents involving people not wearing seat belts.

But yesterday afternoon, while driving down Frederick Road in his pickup truck, Collins wasn't strapped in -- and he got a $25 ticket for it.

"I know it's the law," the 21-year-old Ellicott City resident said. "This makes me think a little more."

Collins and 43 others were ticketed yesterday at a safety-belt checkpoint that was run by Howard County police from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Frederick Road in Ellicott City. Officers were enforcing a state law allowing them to issue $25 tickets to anyone unbelted in the front seat.

The checkpoint was part of a two-month statewide effort to raise awareness of safety belts, said Sgt. Morris Carroll, spokesman for the Howard County police.

The program, known as the Maryland Chief's Challenge, will include more checkpoints, voluntary child-seat inspections, media campaigns and officers passing out brochures, Carroll said.

Yesterday, though, police concentrated on writing tickets.

Standing on a crest by Frederick Road, Officer Paul Yodzis watched for violators and then radioed for officers to stop the cars.

Yodzis, a traffic accident investigator, said six people killed last year in Howard County car crashes would have survived had they been wearing safety belts.

Though Maryland motorists have been required to wear seat belts since 1986, only since October have officers have been allowed to pull drivers over for the offense. Before that, police could write seat-belt tickets only as secondary violations when cars were stopped for other reasons.

During the past two weeks, Howard County police have issued about 800 tickets for seat-belt violations, Yodzis said.

"I've stopped some people who said they could have used that $25 at the bar," said Yodzis. He said 75 percent to 80 percent of county residents comply.

Yesterday, motorists expressed similar feelings.

"I'm not really happy," said Jimmy Smith, 37, of Catonsville. "I usually wear it. I'll wear it from now on."

Limousine driver Sean Richards, 44, of Sykesville, protested his citation, saying his belt had been strapped under his arm.

Officer Kristin Hosinski wasn't convinced and said that's XTC dangerous way to wear a shoulder belt anyway.

"You can really damage multiple organs if you got in an accident" wearing a belt that way, she said. "Most people don't wear their belts correctly."

Police say you should make sure your belts are strapped snugly over your shoulder and around your hips.

"Drivers seem to wear it over their guts," Hosinski said.

Pub Date: 5/15/98

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