State launching ‘Click It or Ticket’ campaign

HOUGHTON – Over the next two weeks, Copper Country police officers will join those across the state in making sure drivers and passengers are buckling up before they hit the road.

The annual “Click It or Ticket” campaign starts Monday and continues through June 2.

The Houghton Police Department and Michigan State Police Calumet Post will be taking part in the event. The state Office of Highway Safety Planning provides federal traffic safety funds for law enforcement agencies in 55 counties to conduct zones. Five-hundred and-seventy-two agencies will be part of this year’s effort, a new record.

Zones will be in effect from noon to 4 p.m. at these dates and locations:

Monday, Houghton, U.S. 41 near Michigan Technological University.

Friday, Houghton, U.S. 41 near Chassell.

May 29, U.S. 41 south of Calumet.

May 31, U.S. 41 on Quincy Hill in Hancock.

The zones are picked on the basis of either high accident totals or low belt usage.

Police announce the zones ahead of time in order to deter violation, said Houghton Police Lt. Nick Roberts.

“The goal is not writing tickets,” he said. “The goal is to make sure people are wearing their safety belts. Public awareness is more important than the actual ticket.”

Under Michigan law, all drivers and front seat passengers must wear a seat belt. If a child is under 4, he or she must be in an approved child safety seat; passengers 15 and younger must be buckled in all positions. Violators in the enforcement zones will automatically be given a $65 ticket.

Even with the advance warning, local officers usually write about 20 tickets, Roberts said.

The state is attempting to reverse a trend of falling seat belt use. After hitting a high of 97.9 percent in 2009, seat belt usage has fallen each year since, dropping to 93.6 percent last year.

“There’s a new effort to educate people on seat belt use, and one of the ways to do that is through these seat belt zones,” said Sgt. Jason Wickstrom of the MSP Calumet Post.