Police holiday checkpoints to target use of seat belts, child safety seats

Effort also aimed at curtailing speeding

May 28, 1999|By Nancy A. Youssef | Nancy A. Youssef,SUN STAFF

In an effort to curtail speeding and seat belt violations during the holiday weekend, Howard County police will target lawbreakers, concluding the department's participation in a two-month state-wide campaign and a weeklong national program.

The Maryland Chief's Challenge is an annual program in which police departments set up checkpoints to target seat belt violations and to perform voluntary child-seat inspections. Police are also participating in a national program -- Operation ABC (America Buckles-Up Children) -- encouraging education about proper restraint of children in seat belts and safety seats.

Since April 1, officers have staked out intersections weekly, handing out $25 tickets to about 1,500 seat-belt violators. This weekend, police at several checkpoints will stop and ticket drivers not wearing seat belts, and offer residents an opportunity to have an officer check the installation of their child safety seats.

"We tried to coincide [the seat belt checkpoints] at places where we have had a lot of accidents," said Pfc. Bill Perigo, of the department's traffic enforcement section.

At Dorsey Run Road and Guilford Road, officers handed out about 40 tickets in a 1 1/2-hour period Tuesday. Nearly all of those who were ticketed insisted they were stopped at the most inopportune of times.

"I do wear them," said Joy Marshall, 35, of Jessup when she was pulled over. "But this is my dad's truck and my car puts it on automatically."

By the time the campaign is over Monday, officials believe they will have handed out 2,000 tickets for seat belt violations alone -- including about 300 this weekend.

As part of Operation ABC, officers will conduct voluntary child-safety seat inspections from 3 to 6 p.m. at the Howard County public safety complex off Scaggsville Road.

Police have found that about 90 percent of child safety seats are not installed improperly, said Perigo.

"The main thing we have found is that they are not tight enough," he said. "You don't want the seat to move more than an inch at the base."

In 1997, 24 teens and children died in Maryland traffic accidents; 14 of them were not restrained, Perigo said.

Officers will also be on the lookout for speeders over the holiday weekend. They are expected to hand out about 500 speeding tickets.

"It is historically one of the weekends where there has been a fatality," said Sgt. A.J. Bellido de Luna of the traffic enforcement section. "We will be targeting the highways."

Perigo said the idea of increased ticketing is not to punish violators, but to try to prevent deaths.

"If we could go out there and we didn't have to write another ticket, we would love it," he said.

Pub Date: 5/28/99

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