Seat belt enforcement, sobriety checkpoints planned

BENNINGTON — Law enforcement in Bennington County will increase patrols and traffic enforcement around Memorial Day in an effort to make roadways safer.

The extra patrols and enforcement, which will include sobriety checkpoints, have been announced as part of the national Click it or Ticket seatbelt awareness campaign.

Troopers with the Vermont State Police Shaftsbury barracks will partner with local and county law enforcement, according to a press release. The Bennington County Sheriff's Department also announced its participation.

The campaign is described as "an opportunity is to use high visibility enforcement to reduce the number of crashes/fatalities statewide." Troopers say they will be aggressively patrolling and enforcing motor vehicle laws concerning impaired, distracted/aggressive driving, speeding and seatbelt use in high traffic and high crash areas.

The national campaign, funded by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, takes place between May 22 and June 4. It coincides with Memorial Day, one of the busiest travel weekends of the year.

This year could be one of the busiest in over a decade. AAA, in its annual Memorial Day forecast, estimated 39.3 million people will travel 50 miles or more from home, more than one million than last year and the highest since 2005. Of those, 34.6 million people will travel by car.

Local agencies say they will adopt a zero tolerance policy for not wearing a seat belt. In Vermont it is a secondary violation and officer need to write the primary violation and add the safety belt violation add on for an additional $25.00 fine.

Nearly half of the 22,441 passenger vehicle occupants killed in crashes in 2015 were unrestrained, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

As of Thursday, 18 people had died in traffic fatalities on Vermont roadways this year, according to data from the Governor's Highway Safety Program

In 2015, 10,265 people died in drunk driving crashes - one every 51 minutes - and 290,000 were injured in drunk driving crashes, according to the NHTSA.

In Vermont, a first-time offender could be required to pay hundreds in legal fees and complete Project CRASH, the state's drinking driver rehabilitation program. A first-time impaired driver faces a maximum fine of $750 and up to two years in jail, as well as a driver's license suspension for 90 days to six months. Offenders also could see a significant increase in their car insurance rate.

Reach staff writer Edward Damon at 802-447-7567, ext. 111 or @edamon_banner.


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