Click it or ticket? Some law enforcement agencies let violators slide
Posted November 26, 2013
Raleigh, N.C. — Law enforcement officers will be scouring the streets this holiday season, searching for seat belt violators. But WRAL News found that the likelihood of getting a ticket depends on which agency makes the traffic stop.
By far, the North Carolina State Highway Patrol writes the most seat belt tickets, more than 146,000 over the past two years, and troopers are the least likely to let seat-belt violators slide. State records show they wrote tickets 96 percent of the time when they pulled over motorists suspected of going unbuckled.
“The Highway Patrol is very stringent when it comes to the seat belt law,” spokesman Sgt. Jeff Gordon said. “If we see somebody who's not wearing a seat belt, we're going to stop you and we're going to cite you for that. We want everybody to buckle up, because it does save lives.”
WRAL News found a large disparity in the rate of citations elsewhere. Morrisville and Fuquay-Varina officers wrote tickets nearly 85 percent of the time they spotted seat belt violations. The rate dropped to nearly 72 percent for Wake County sheriff’s deputies and nearly 57 percent for Raleigh police.
Drivers had a much better chance of evading a ticket from Durham police, which has a 51 percent citation rate. Fayetteville police cited 45 percent of drivers, while Person County sheriff’s deputies cited 26 percent.
Governor's Highway Safety Program Director Don Nail acknowledges some agencies are reluctant to issue seat belt tickets, especially since the cost jumped from $25 to $161.
“They feel like they're putting a burden on someone,” he said. “(But) bottom line, we think the citations need to be issued.”
Nail says he believes it takes both enforcement and education to protect the public. He says one alternative under consideration is allowing first-time offenders a chance to take a safety class in exchange for waiving the $161 ticket.
Seat belt stop statistics – Jan. 1, 2012 - Nov. 26, 2013
Data courtesy of the N.C. Administrative Office of the Courts