By Mike LaBella
---- — HAVERHILL — Drivers beware.
Local and state police said they will keep their eyes peeled for people not wearing seat belts during the unofficial start of the early summer season.
And while an officer can’t stop a vehicle just because he notices someone isn’t buckled up, police said any stops for other reasons — a broken tail light or car moving erratically, for instance — are likely to have severe consequences if someone in the car has no seat belt on.
“As we kick-off the busy summer driving season, it’s important that everyone buckles up every time they go out, both day and night, no excuses,” said police Capt. Alan Ratte. “Our officers are prepared to ticket drivers and passengers not wearing seat belts.”
State Police, Haverhill and most other local departments will take part in the 2013 national “Click It or Ticket” seat belt enforcement mobilization from May 20 to June 2. Police officers will be cracking down on motorists who are not buckled in around the Memorial Day holiday.
According to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, more than half of the 21,253 passenger vehicle occupants killed in 2011 were unbelted at the time of the crash. Those deaths were more prevalent at night than during the daytime.
These national statistics are mirrored locally, police said. According to the NHTSA, 54 percent of people killed in passenger motor vehicle crashes in Massachusetts during 2011 were not wearing seat belts at the time of the crash.
“Seat belts save thousands of lives every year, but far too many motorists are still not buckling up,” Ratte said. “We want everyone to have a safe summer, but it requires an important step on the part of motorists – clicking that seat belt – every trip, every time.”
The NHTSA estimates that 11,949 lives nationwide have been saved by using seat belts.
This year’s Click It or Ticket enforcement mobilization runs from May 20 through June 2, but officers are out enforcing seat belt laws year-round, police said.