A costly crackdown that catches few lawbreakers

Whenever there’s a spate of violent crime that captures public attention, or just about every year at budget time, you can expect to hear some politicians and top police brass lamenting the need for more resources. Police leaders say they need more money for more intensive training, better gear, and particularly more cash to hire more cops. Which certainly makes it fair game to question the decisions of departments to continue to pour millions of dollars into low-return, social engineering crackdowns that yield few arrests/charges/tickets.

The latest seatbelt blitz by Ontario’s provincial force is a good example. Provincial cops, and there are roughly 6,000 of them, spent 10 days on roadsides trying to nab seatbelt law violators. They checked more than 1 million vehicles. Their haul? Tickets as a ratio of checks amounted to 0.7%. That’s less than one citation for every 100 vehicles checked. The raw numbers show that cops ticketed 7,419 drivers and passengers. In the release issued today, police say they “maintained a strong presence on roads and highways throughout the province, ensuring that motorists and vehicle occupants were properly buckled in.” (my emphasis) Really? They “ensured” that occupants were buckled up? In fact, they didn’t have to ensure people were buckled in because the numbers show that the vast majority of people were using their seatbelts. Maybe everyone who is going to wear a seatbelt already has ‘learned’ to buckle up as an automatic practice of getting into a vehicle. Some people clearly refuse to use seatbelts but should we spend millions on blitzes to scare them into buckling up, when there’s no verifiable evidence that the campaigns lead anyone to buckle up who otherwise wouldn’t?

Here’s the release the Ontario Provincial Police issued today:

April 26 2011

OPP WRAPS UP ANNUAL SEATBELT CAMPAIGN

AURORA, ON, April 26 /CNW/ – With the 2011 Spring Seatbelt Campaign coming to end, the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) have taken a close look at how attentive Ontario motorists are being, 35 years after seatbelt laws were introduced in Ontario.

The annual campaign ran from April 13 to 23, 2011 and during that time, the OPP maintained a strong presence on roads and highways throughout the province, ensuring that motorists and vehicle occupants were properly buckled in.

OPP officers paid special attention to how children were restrained, making sure that child safety/booster seats were in accordance with age, height, weight of the child and that they were properly installed.

Preliminary results show that over the course of the campaign, officers checked 1,050,329 vehicles, laid a total of 5,622 charges against drivers and a further 1,791 charges against passengers who were not wearing their seatbelts. A total of 140 charges were laid against drivers for not having a properly installed/secured child restraint.

Over and above the seatbelt campaign results, OPP statistics reveal that as of March (2011), lack of restraint was a causal factor in almost 900 motor vehicle collision injuries so far this year and these numbers concern the OPP’s traffic safety provincial commander.

“People continue to endanger their lives, those of their passengers and even their children by ignoring important seatbelt and child restraint laws. The motoring public should know that as part of our Provincial Traffic Safety Program, the OPP will continue to aggressively enforce traffic safety laws throughout the year, and seatbelt laws will continue to be at the forefront of our award-winning strategy.” – OPP Deputy Commissioner Larry Beechey, Provincial Commander, Traffic Safety & Operational Support.

Seatbelt non-compliance remains one of the four major causes of persons killed in fatal motor vehicle collisions along with speeding, impaired driving and driving while distracted.

The OPP are reminding motorists to take their responsibility as a driver seriously and ensure that everyone is buckled up every time they take to the road.

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