Police prepare to buckle down on safety

WOODSTOCK – Area law enforcement will be taking extra steps to make sure drivers are buckled in for the national Click It or Ticket campaign.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that more than 9,000 people who were not wearing seatbelts, or “unrestrained,” were killed in U.S. vehicle accidents in 2014.

Capt. Wesley Dellinger, of the Shenandoah County Sheriff’s Office, said drivers will notice more deputies on county roads looking for traffic infractions and seatbelt violations during the May 23 to June 5 campaign. Drivers will also encounter Click It or Ticket signs along Shenandoah County roads during that time.

“Wearing a seat belt is one of the most important steps in increasing survivability in a crash,” he said. “Our job is to stop those who are not buckled up, and to keep them from repeating this potentially deadly mistake.”

He said town police departments and the Sheriff’s Office all receive funding from the Virginia Highway Safety Grant for those extra efforts.

Dellinger said that out of 39 crashes in Shenandoah County in 2015, those not wearing seatbelts accounted for 21 injuries and four fatalities. So far this year, he said there have been five unrestrained injuries in Shenandoah County. A teenaged driver not wearing a seatbelt died in a motor vehicle incident near Strasburg in February.

Statewide, the Sheriff’s Office reported that there were 310 unrestrained fatalities in 2015 and 71 unrestrained fatalities recorded so far this year. In 2015, unrestrained fatalities made up around 41 percent of all Virginia traffic fatalities.

Although statistics show that many young male drivers choose not to wear seatbelts, New Market Police Chief Chris Rinker said children’s vehicle safety is another area of focus. He said people can contact their local law enforcement agency to speak with a technician about any questions they might have about child safety seats.

The New Market Police Department’s child passenger safety trailer will be present at the 5th annual Woodstock Police Department’s Community Safety Day at W.W. Robinson Elementary School from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday.

The Frederick County Sheriff’s Office reports that out of 14 county roadway deaths in 2015, five people might have survived if they had been wearing a seatbelt at the time.

Lt. Warren Gosnell said the Sheriff’s Office will kick the campaign off on May 23, working with the Winchester Police Department to set up checkpoints. Throughout the campaign, he said local and state law enforcement will be increasing patrols to focus on general traffic safety.

“We still have a tough time because the seatbelt isn’t enough in and of itself to stop an adult motorist,” he said. “It makes it a little more difficult for us here in Virginia – that’s why the checkpoint comes in handy.”

The Sheriff’s Office report also stated that there were 58 unrestrained injuries in 2015, up from 44 injuries in 2013 and 31 injuries in 2014. Three unrestrained fatalities occurred in Frederick County in 2014.

Contact staff writer Rachel Mahoney at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or rmahoney@nvdaily.com