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Troopers emphasize seat belt safety

Norwalk Reflector Staff • Oct 28, 2015 at 3:53 PM

What bothered Tate Moyer the most about getting pulled over wasn't the warning on the minor speeding violation. It was getting charged with not wearing his seat belt.

"We're having a day off and I didn't think about it," the Mansfield driver said. "Usually everybody wears them."

State Trooper Ryan Thomas said Moyer's reaction is typical when he cites somebody for a seat belt violation, the state Highway Patrol's latest safety emphasis. The Norwalk trooper smiled, recalling that the woman in the passenger seat said she was relieved that she was wearing her seat belt.

Thomas hears many of the same responses from people caught without their seat belts.

"I just forgot or I just pulled out of my driveway a mile or two down the road or I usually wear it," he recalled.

"Believe it or not, there are people out there who say it rubs their necks" and say they don't wear a seat belt because it's uncomfortable, Thomas added.

Lt. Jim Bryan, the Norwalk post commander, has requested troopers emphasize seat belt safety because all three of the people killed this year in Huron County weren't wearing one.

"We've advised our officers not to give warnings for seat belts. If the officer sees the driver not wearing a seat belt, the driver can expect a citation," Bryan said.

Seat belt charges are considered secondary citations, meaning the offender could be charged only after being pulled over for a moving or equipment violation.

A seat belt violation costs a driver a $51 fine through Norwalk Municipal Court. Passengers pay $41. Drivers face a $70 fine if a child under the age of 15 in the back seat isn't wearing a child safety restraint.

Troopers are pushing the new seat belt safety agenda through speaking engagements at schools and civic groups. Bryan also has been an occasional guest on WLKR.

"We're glad to spread the message," he said.

While the Norwalk post had no specific statistics on seat belt violations, Bryan said troopers are citing as many people as they can.

Troopers are expected to perform two traffic stops per hour.

"Sometimes you get that, sometimes you don't," Thomas said.

About half of the stops Thomas initiates during an eight-hour shift result in seat belt violations.

"Most people are content with a seat belt violation, rather than something else," the trooper said. "They're thinking the worst case scenario."

EDITOR'S NOTE: This story is based on a recent "ride-along" reporter Cary Ashby did with Trooper Ryan Thomas of the state Highway Patrol.

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