Seymour Police Department is stepping up efforts to pull over unsafe drivers and their passengers who are not wearing seat belts.

The national and statewide 2017 Click It or Ticket initiative kicked off Saturday and there will be an increased law enforcement presence through June 4 in and around Seymour conducting patrols to encourage drivers and passengers to buckle up for safety.

Police Chief Bill Abbott said wearing a seat belt is “essential” for staying safe on the road.

“Increasing public awareness and heightening enforcement through our participation in this campaign is a great way to boost the importance of seat belt safety,” he said. “If you are not wearing a seat belt, we will pull you over.”

A dozen Seymour officers will work overtime over the next three weeks to conduct seat belt checks. Federal funding to pay police departments for the overtime is made available through a grant from the Traffic Safety Division of the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute.

During the 2016 Click It or Ticket campaign, Seymour officers conducted 199 traffic stops and issued 119 citations and 119 warning tickets. Four people were arrested for licensing violations.

According to the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute, 827 people were killed in motor vehicle wrecks on Indiana roadways in 2016, and of those fatalities, 36 percent were found to not be wearing seat belts.

“I am grateful for all the agencies involved in this campaign, which is vital to encouraging people to buckle up,” said Indiana Criminal Justice Institute Director Dave Murtaugh. “We will continue to spread the message of how crucial seat belt use is in saving lives and reducing injuries.”

Indiana law enforcement agencies have been actively involved in the Click It or Ticket campaign for more than 20 years. In addition, for 2017, Indiana agencies will join those from across the Eastern half of the United States in a combined “Border to Border” mobilization.

On May 22 from 4 to 8 p.m. this joint mobilization will be a driving force for seat belt safety, and those who are unbelted, whether driving or riding, will result in a ticket, according to a news release from Seymour Police Department.

For more information regarding the Click It or Ticket enforcement mobilization campaign, visit nhtsa.gov/nhtsa/ciot/index.html.

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January Rutherford is a reporter for The (Seymour) Tribune. She can be reached at jrutherford@tribtown.com or 812-523-7069.