AMHERST – A couple of decades after seat belt use became the law, police continue to be amazed at how many people refuse to buckle up.
During a two-day focused enforcement across Cumberland and Colchester counties earlier this week, RCMP Northern Traffic Services charged 46 motorists for failing to wear a seat belt, with 30 of those charges coming during enforcement just outside Amherst on Tuesday.
“I was quite surprised, especially with seat belts and there were a lot of young people,” Cpl. Darren Galley said Thursday. “I’m sitting there in an unmarked vehicle and I’m finding a lot of younger people, who are supposed to be more educated about seat belt use, are not using their seat belts.”
Galley said an unmarked car watched traffic leaving Amherst, while marked cars pulled over vehicles caught by the spotter. Along with the 30 seat belt infractions, Galley said there were 14 cell phone infractions and a couple of other relating to insurance and drivers licences.
In Colchester, on Wednesday, 16 seat belt infractions were identified along with six cell phone infractions.
Galley said he expected to see a lot of handheld cell phone use because that law is more recent and there are still drivers hesitant to give up the habit. The lack of seat belt use shocked him considering how easy it is to buckle up and how it can save a life in a crash.
“We’re doing this to improve road safety and it’s well known that if you get into some sort of road collision having a seat belt on increases your chances of surviving the crash or preventing major injury,” he said. “The numbers I saw sort of blew me away.”
He was also disappointed with some of the comments directed at officers. Some said they hoped the officers were proud of what they were doing while others suggested officers should spend their time catching criminals.
He said some comments were positive with drivers admitting they made a mistake and supporting the initiative.
Galley said despite the negative comments, officers will continue vigilance because it only takes a moment of distraction for disaster to happen.
He also noticed that some drivers are being distracted by their iPods and suggested the legislation may have to be expanded.
“In my opinion the law has to change in regards to being a distracted driver. As I was watching traffic I saw a number of vehicles go by with the driver looking down at an iPod with their eyes off the road,” he said. “The legislation under the cell phone section doesn’t include an iPod, but the driver is doing the same thing searching for music as dialing a cell phone or searching phone numbers.”