By Erin Delmore
“Summer’ s coming up, a lot of vacations. There are going to be a lot of travelers on the roads and we want them to stay safe,” said Ewing Police Captain Rocco Maruca.
Maruca’s police department in Ewing is one of 195 statewide taking part in this year’s national Click It or Ticket campaign.
“Our roving patrols out there will be looking for passengers both in the front seats and the back seats to make sure they’re wearing their seat belts, and if they’re not wearing their seat belt, they will be getting a ticket,” Maruca said.
Police departments in all 21 counties are authorizing overtime for their officers to enforce seat belt laws through checkpoints and roving patrols over the next two weeks. Nearly 200 police agencies got $5,000 in grant money from the state Division of Highway Traffic Safety.
“On average, approximately 50 percent of all of our fatalities every year are passengers or motorists who are unrestrained. So about 150 fatalities in New Jersey every year result in a passenger or motorist who is not restrained,” said New Jersey Division of Highway Traffic Safety Acting Director Gary Poedubicky.
New Jersey drivers are actually some of the best in the country when it comes to seat belt use. We rank among the top 10 states with 91 percent of drivers and front seat passengers buckling up. But that number plummets when it comes to adult passengers in the back seat. Only 39 percent are using their seat belts, according to the state Division of Highway Traffic Safety.
“You do have to buckle up in both the front and the rear seat of the vehicle. It is a secondary offense in the rear seat, which means that you have to, you can only be stopped for another offense, but it is still a law; you have to buckle up in both the front and the rear seat,” Poedubicky said.
New Jersey is one of only 34 states with a primary seat belt law. That means, you can be pulled over just for not wearing one. And, we’re one of only 28 states that requires passengers in the back seat to buckle up. If a police officer spots someone in the back who’s not wearing a seat belt and that passenger is between the ages of 8 and 18, the driver gets hit with the ticket. If the passenger is 18 or older, it’s on them. There are separate laws that govern seat belt use for kids under 8.
The municipal court here in Ewing reminded us, if you’re caught without a seat belt, you’ll pay the price. That ticket is $46 for each passenger.