Better buckle up after nightfall

Beginning tonight, police in several communities around Snohomish County will step up efforts to pull over drivers who fail to buckle up after dark

The emphasis is aimed at bringing down the number of traffic fatalities that increase proportionately in the evening, officials said.

“If we can target the nighttime driver and get them to buckle up, then we can dramatically reduce the number of deaths,” Washington State Patrol trooper Kirk Rudeen said.

Last year, 648 people died on Washington roads, officials said.

The State Patrol, along with Lynnwood and Edmonds police, are participating in the statewide seat belt enforcement program.

Washington Traffic Safety Commission officials said seat belt use drops at night, adding to the likelihood of a fatal or injury accident, director Lowell Porter said.

People are 70 percent more likely to be seriously hurt or die if they don’t buckle up, he said.

Washington leads the country in seat belt compliance, he said.

In June 2002, state law was changed to allow officers to pull people over if they aren’t buckled up. The fine is $101.

That law, combined with the Click it or Ticket, campaign, introduced in 2002, boosted seat belt use from about 80 percent compliance to more than 96 percent today, Porter said.

The national average is 81 percent.

The state commission decided to look at ways to get more people to buckle up at night, he said.

The State Patrol tested a program in Vancouver, Wash., and in the Tri-Cities, where one trooper served as a lookout and alerted partners to people not wearing seat belts.

That’s how police plan to work in Snohomish County as well, Rudeen said.

“We’ve found it to be very successful,” he said.

State and federal money is paying for the program.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is studying the effectiveness of the nighttime patrols as a potential program to be rolled out nationwide.

Police will run extra nighttime patrols through June 3, again around Halloween and next spring.

Reporter Jackson Holtz: 425-339-3437 or

Seat belt patrols

The Washington State Patrol and Lynnwood and Edmonds police will be looking for drivers who fail to wear a seat belt at night.

Extra patrols begin tonight.

Fewer drivers wear seat belts and more people die in traffic accidents after dark, officials said.

The fine for driving unbuckled is $101.

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