California Buckles Down for Safety

Just buckle up already.

At least for the rest of the month.

From May 18 to 31, Californian law enforcement agencies will be cracking down hard on drivers, giving no warnings, just tickets with fines as high as $435.

Along with the California Highway Patrol, some 90 local police agencies across the state will be stepping up seatbelt enforcement for the campaign, which is being partly funded by a $3 million federal traffic safety grant administered by the California Office of Traffic Safety.

OTS Director Christopher Murphy said California has a 95.7 percent safety belt compliance rate -- which translates to roughly 500,000 vehicle occupants failing to buckle up -- compared to a national compliance rate of around 83 percent.

Fines for failing to strap in now run $132 for adults, compared to $91 last year. For children under 16, the penalty is $435, compared to $350 in 2008.

California has a primary seatbelt law, which requires that every passenger in the car, including the driver, wear a safety restraint at all times. Children 12 years and under are required to ride restrained in the back seat, and those under age 6 or 60 pounds must be in child safety seats.

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"Seat belts save thousands of lives every year,'' said Palm Springs police Chief David Dominguez. "Buckling up will not only save you a heavy fine; it can also save your life."

"We're not giving warnings. It's "Click It, or Ticket,'" he said.

"Click It or Ticket" digital messages will be flashed on roadside traffic alert signs throughout the state during the campaign.

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