Police focus on motorist safety

Hood River City Police will be on the look out for travelers who don't buckle up during a six-day safety blitz that begins on Feb. 11.

"We feel every motorist should have the opportunity to have a future," said Lieutenant Jerry Brown.

City officers will join state and county law enforcement officials in the first of three annual crackdowns that will take place from Feb. 11-16. Their goal is to bring Hood River's compliance rate up to 92 percent, slightly higher than the state average.

According to Oregon State Police (OSP) reports, Oregon is currently ranked number two in the nation for seatbelt usage, second only to California. Brown said, based on tickets issued during the 2001 enforcement actions, motorists using seat belts in Hood River jumped from 63 percent at the start of the year to 87 percent.

According to the OSP, since a Safety Belt Diversion program was implemented last August, more than 860 people have been educated about the importance of using safety harnesses. Under that program first time offenders can have their citation waived by paying to attend a special class.

During the heightened alert, police will also be watching for violators of Oregon's new law that requires booster seats for children between the ages of four and six, regardless of weight, and children between 40 and 60 pounds, regardless of age.

Last year, funds collected through the local seat belt diversion program were used to provide more than 200 child seats to low-income families in Gilliam, Hood River, Sherman and Wasco counties.

The National SAFE KIDS Campaign urges parents to buckle children of all ages in the back seat where they are out of reach of airbags.

In addition, they warn that children over 60 pounds who are no longer in a booster seat should not to place shoulder belts behind their backs. SAFE KIDS said lap and shoulder belts should fit low over hips and upper thighs and snug under the shoulder to provide maximum safety benefits.

In addition to the seat belt and booster seat enforcement, Hood River officers will also be extra vigilant for DUII offenders on Saturday Feb. 9 and one week later on Feb. 16.

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