05/26/04 — Click it or ticket

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Click it or ticket

By Jack Stephens
Published in News on May 26, 2004 2:03 PM

Watch out -- law enforcement officers will be stopping more cars than usual during the next couple of weeks.

The first of four special statewide traffic enforcement programs is under way -- just in time for the first summer holiday weekend.

The "Click It or Ticket" campaign to encourage the use of seat belts and child safety seats began this week and will extend through the long Memorial Day holiday weekend until June 6.

Not only will state Highway Patrol troopers, Wayne County sheriff's deputies and city police officers be looking for passenger restraint violations, but they also will be looking for any hazardous driving situation, including speeders, impaired drivers and aggressive drivers.

State troopers from the Wayne County district of the Highway Patrol will conduct night checking stations over the holiday weekend and daily line patrols on U.S. 70 and U.S. 117.

"We do that every weekend in high accident areas," said 1st Sgt. T.C. McLeod, the district supervisor. "If you can't do something in 30 or 40 minutes, then you go somewhere else. We've been doing real well, day and night."

Goldsboro police also will hold daily checkpoints. Maj. M.D. Hopper, who commands the patrol division, said they may be held anywhere in town.

"We want to make people aware of the program," Hopper said, "that seat belts save lives. We will try not to inconvenience the public any more than we have to, but if we save a life or prevent a serious injury, then it's been worth it."

Hopper said he hoped the campaign would boost seat-belt use to more than 90 percent. The current statewide rate is 86 percent, he said, and the county rate is 88 percent.

The major said a countywide checkpoint will be held June 2 at an undisclosed location with the Highway Patrol, Sheriff's Office and other town police departments invited.

"We realize this is the beginning of the vacation season," Sheriff Carey Winders said Tuesday. "We encourage people to drive safely, because the traffic will be heavy."

The sheriff said extra deputies will be patrolling during the Memorial Day weekend.

For those leaving on vacation, Winders suggested that residents not let people know that they will be gone and have a neighbor take in the mail and check on the home periodically.

Sgt. McLeod noted that his patrol district was four troopers short because of a military deployment, assignments to the patrol academy and special assignments. That cuts the number of troopers on the road almost in half per shift, he said.

Despite the reduced manpower, McLeod says his troopers have done well. Fatalities are down, but collisions are up in comparison to the same time period of 2003.

"The citizens want a high visibility on the road," the first sergeant said. "We ride through trouble spots, stop when you see something and then go to a wreck."

Two "Booze It and Lose It" campaigns against drunk driving and a second Click It or Ticket campaign will be held later this year.

Sheriff Winders noted that high school graduations will be held this weekend. He urged the new graduates to drive and act responsibly.

"It would be heart-breaking for a new graduate to be arrested," Winders said, "but it's even worse for an officer to have to notify parents of their child's death in a traffic accident. So we encourage our new graduates to drive safely. We want this to be the beginning of a safe summer."