Fairbanks steps up seat belt enforcement

Posted: Friday, May 09, 2003

FAIRBANKS (AP) Beginning Saturday, Fairbanks will be the first city in Alaska to allow police to pull motorists over simply for not wearing their seat belts.

A new city ordinance bumps the violation from a secondary to a primary law. That means police don't have to wait until drivers violate another law before stopping vehicles occupied by adults or children who are not properly restrained with a seat belt or safety device.

The new ordinance, adopted Monday by the Fairbanks City Council, will be enforced only within the city limits, said Fairbanks Police Director Paul Harris.

The consideration is safety,'' Harris told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner. This is one of the times we can do a pre-emptive thing.''

Harris said there will be a short grace period to let people get used to the idea. But police will start getting tough May 19 when an enforcement campaign puts extra patrol officers on the streets

The ordinance will impose a $60 fine for each person in a vehicle not wearing a seat belt or children younger than 16 who are not properly restrained. If there isn't a child safety seat in the vehicle, the fine could be $200.

Vehicles with a seat belt removed could also net the driver a $60 fine.

Under state law, the fine is $15 for an adult infraction and $50 for children not in a child safety seat.

The state fine is so low that it doesn't get people's attention,'' Harris said.

From May 19 through June 1, Fairbanks police will use 120 hours of overtime provided through a grant to enforce the new code.

Fort Wainwright also has jumped on board a national campaign for beefed-up enforcement called Click it or Ticket.'' Checkpoints will be set up throughout post to monitor seat-belt use, said Post Provost Marshall Capt. Michael Bailey.

Military police on all federal installations have been allowed to pull people over solely for seat belt infractions.

Alaska State Troopers will follow state law instead of the Fairbanks ordinance, even if drivers are stopped within the city limits.

Right now we don't have the authorization to enforce this,'' said Capt. Greg Tanner. That would only change at the direction of the commissioner of public safety.

Personally, I'd like to see it on a statewide basis,'' Tanner said. I believe that seat belts save lives and it's a good idea.''

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