Arizona Department Of Public Safety Increases Seatbelt Citations by 194 Percent During “Seatbelt Challenge”
Agency’s Goal Is To Reduce Fatality And Injury Crashes Statewide
Tuesday, November 20, 2012 -
Since the first of this year there have been 221 fatal collisions on Arizona’s interstates and highways. This number is almost identical to numbers reported for this same time period in 2011 (220). Holding the line on the number of fatal collisions is somewhat of a victory in itself as Arizona’s highways are experiencing record miles driven compared to pre-recession numbers. By contrast, in 2007, when the economy was strong, there were 286 fatal collisions during this same time period. Record miles were also driven during that same year.
Early this year, Department of Public Safety officials noticed that seatbelt citations issued by its Officers appeared to be low; especially in light of the fact the highway patrol division had included seatbelt enforcement as one of its six priorities. According to Lt. Colonel James McGuffin, head of the Highway Patrol Division at DPS, “When we looked closely at the number of our fatality victims who were unrestrained at the time of the collision, we saw the connection right away.” As an example, in July of this year, Department of Public Safety Highway Patrol officers investigated 25 fatality collisions on state highways and 60 percent (15) of those killed were not wearing seatbelts.
McGuffin created the seatbelt challenge as a way to make sure DPS Highway Patrol Officers knew seatbelt violations are a priority. “Our seatbelt enforcement numbers were somewhat low and I knew we could do better. Since Arizona is a secondary violation state, we challenged our officers to concentrate on seatbelt enforcement when stopping vehicles for other primary violations.” Highway Patrol officers responded by increasing enforcement activity during the three month timeframe of August through October. The increased emphasis was demonstrated through a comparison of restraint violations cited by DPS officers for the same period in 2011 and 2012. During the three-month period in 2011, officers wrote 3,882 restraint citations statewide. During the same three-month period this year, officers wrote 11,422 restraint citations (an increase of 194 percent).