FL MORRIS / FMORRIS@STARBULLETIN.COM
The Honolulu Police Department and the state Department of Transportation launched the annual "Click It or Ticket" campaign yesterday, with police handing out tickets to drivers who fail to properly wear their seat belts. Officer Emalia Keawe wrote a ticket to a driver at the corner of Beretania and Isenberg streets. CLICK FOR LARGE
Buckle up or pay up
The annual "Click It or Ticket" campaign starts up to remind people to use seat belts
AFTER POLICE officers in bright yellow vests pulled him over, Blayne Graham had a guilty look on his face.
"Were you wearing your seat belt?" the officer asked. Graham, 21, opened his mouth to speak.
"Be honest, man," the officer said.
His head tilted slightly down. "No," Graham said.
Sometimes, giving a good excuse or acting sincerely apologetic might have worked for Graham. Not yesterday, though, and probably not for the next two weeks.
The Honolulu Police Department and state Department of Transportation launched the annual "Click It or Ticket" campaign yesterday at 70 locations on Oahu that will end June 3. Non-law-abiding citizens who do not properly wear their seat belt, like Graham, have a greater chance of getting fined $92. More police officers are on the road, strictly for "Click It or Ticket."
"I do feel bad sometimes because I know it ruins their day," said HPD officer Sam Keliikipi, one of the six officers at Beretania and Isenberg streets yesterday morning flagging down violators. "But we do it for their safety."
They ticketed 15 people in one hour yesterday. Most of the drivers hurriedly buckled up as they saw the officers. That was too late, police officers said.
"CLICK IT OR TICKET" is a national campaign to encourage motorists to follow the law and wear seat belts for their own safety. On Oahu last year, 32 of the 51 people who died in vehicle accidents were not wearing seat belts. This year, 12 of the 18 people killed in auto accidents did not have their seat belts on.
"You can be the best driver in the world, but if you don't wear a seat belt, it doesn't matter," said Scott Ishikawa, state transportation spokesman.
Hawaii law mandates that anyone in the front seats must wear seat belts, anyone 17 and under in the back seat must wear seat belts, and children must be properly restrained in child safety seats in the back seat.
Compared with national statistics, Hawaii motorists are above average when it comes to wearing seat belts.
About 92.5 percent of people wore seat belts in Hawaii last year compared with the national average of 81 percent.
But the number of seat belt citations has grown. Last year, there were 3,337 citations issued statewide compared with 2,483 in 2005. Most were issued during the two-week "Click It or Ticket" campaign, said HPD officer Maxie Navas.
Ishikawa said the state gave drivers a fair warning. But some, like Graham, said he did not see the TV commercials or the flashing orange electronic signs on the road telling drivers of "Click It or Ticket."
"It happens," said Graham, disappointed that this is his third ticket in the last month. The other two times, his parking meter had expired and his red truck was towed.
Sisi Shik, 56, who also received a $92 ticket yesterday, said she was wearing her seat belt but had her arm over the strap to drive more comfortably.
Sorry, police officers say, but you can get ticketed for that, too.
VIOLATIONS BY THE NUMBERS
Breakdown of the $92 seat belt fine:
$45: Fine, which goes to the state general fund
$30: Administrative fee to the state general fund
$7: Driver education fee to the Judiciary for classes
$10: Neurotrauma special fund surcharge, which was created in 2002 mandating the state Department of Health create services that support and provide for survivors of neurotrauma injuries
Citations issued for seat belt violations:
Source: State Department of Transportation