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Southern Ute Police enforcing seatbelt laws to save lives

By Raymond N. Coriz Jr.

If there is one thing I could urge all motorists - drivers, passengers, front seat, back seat, all ages - to do every time you get in a vehicle, it's buckle up.

It is the single most effective way to avoid being killed in a crash. Would you ever ride a roller coaster without the harness down? Would you ever skydive without a parachute? When you ride in a motor vehicle without a seat belt, you are taking a huge risk. One you can't afford. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in 2013, there were 9,580 unbelted vehicle occupants killed in crashes on our nation's roads.

This May 18 to 31, the Southern Ute Police Department is joining NHTSA and law enforcement agencies nationwide for the 2015 Click It or Ticket enforcement mobilization. We will be out in full force, cracking down on seat belt violations, issuing citations to anyone caught traveling without a buckled seat belt or transporting unrestrained children. We are determined to get the message across: Seat belts save lives. In fact, from 2008 to 2012, they saved nearly 63,000 lives. And in 2012, an additional 3,031 lives could have been saved if all unrestrained occupants involved in fatal crashes had worn their seat belts.

We've found in the past that May is a very effective time to ramp up seat belt enforcement efforts. Many motorists travel over Memorial Day weekend, which kicks off the busy summer travel season. It's the perfect time to remind everyone why seat belt use is required by law. And we want people to know: we're not cracking down to write tickets. We're doing it to save lives.

In addition to increased patrols and zero-tolerance enforcement, the Southern Ute Police Department will conduct DUI saturation patrols and DUI Checkpoints.

We really want to get the right information out to motorists. There are too many false notions out there about seat belts. Young adults in particular seem to think they are invincible in vehicles. Unfortunately, they are dying at a disproportionate rate because they are not wearing their seat belts. Almost twice as many men are dying in vehicle crashes compared to women, and wearing their seat belts less than women. Pickup truck occupants think that they don't need to wear their seat belts because they believe their large vehicles will protect them in a crash. The numbers from NHTSA tell the truth: 63 percent of pickup truck occupants who were killed in crashes were not buckled up. That's compared to 43 percent of passenger car occupants who were killed while not wearing their seat belts. During the Click It or Ticket enforcement period, an important part of our safety messaging to motorists includes the words "day and night" - and for good reason. In 2013, about 59 percent of passenger vehicle occupants were killed during the nighttime hours of 6 p.m. to 5:59 a.m. who were not wearing their seat belts. More people are being killed in nighttime crashes than ever before, and we are going to be targeting nighttime seat belt violators as a result.

Next time you head out on the road, make sure you and everyone in your vehicle are buckled up. Don't just do it to avoid a ticket, do it so you arrive at your destination safely. Since it's our job to help protect Southern Ute Indian Tribal Community motorists, we're taking Click It or Ticket seriously. Consider yourself warned: If police catch you not wearing your seat belt on the road, you will get a ticket. No excuses, no warnings. We're hoping you'll get the message and buckle up every trip, every time, even after the crackdown period is over. Wearing your seat belt is required by law 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

So please remember, day and night, Click It or Ticket. You can find out more about the Click It or Ticket mobilization at www.nhtsa.gov/ciot.

Raymond N. Coriz Jr. is the chief of police of the Southern Ute Indian Tribe.