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Authorities enforcing 'Click it or Ticket'

Photo by Laura Williams

Photo by Laura Williams

ALBANY, Ga. -- Law enforcement agencies throughout Georgia are going the extra mile to make sure the state's roads are safe.

In light of the upcoming Memorial Day weekend, officials with the Governor's Office of Highway Safety (GOHS) were in Albany on Monday to kick-off the "Click it or Ticket" campaign.

As part of the campaign, law enforcement agencies will be conducting high-visibility road checks day and night up through June 5 to ensure drivers and passengers are wearing their seat belts.

"We don't want people to be surprised," said GOHS Director Harris Blackwood. "We want people to know we will be out."

A news conference was held at the East Albany Walmart on Cordele Road to make the announcement, which featured GOHS officials as well as area law enforcement representatives.

One of the law enforcement representatives included Col. Mark Shirley from the Dougherty County Sheriff's Office, who advocated for Georgia's youngest residents.

"If you are a parent, the most important gift is your children," he said. "The No. 1 cause of child deaths is car accidents. They have no say-so in their safety.

"As parents, we need to be voices for them."

Lt. Buddy Johnson of the Georgia State Patrol took the opportunity to warn drivers that they won't be receiving warnings while "Click it or Ticket" is in effect.

"Seat belt enforcement is not new," he said. "If you don't have a seat belt on you will receive a citation, and we'll tell you to have a nice day."

Immediately following the news conference, a checkpoint was set up on the 200 block of North Mock Road.

When lap and shoulder belts are used properly, the risk of fatal injury to front-seat passengers is reduced by 45 percent and the risk of moderate to serious injury is reduced by 50 percent, GOHS officials say. More than 450 unrestrained Georgia motorists died in 2009.

The 100 Days of Summer H.E.A.T. (Highway Enforcement of Aggressive Traffic), a multi-jurisdictional enforcement campaign against drunk driving, speeding and texting while driving, also began Monday.

H.E.A.T. will stay in effect through the Fourth of July and Labor Day holidays. Teams will also be looking out for late-night seat belt violators.

In addition, officials with GOHS took Monday's news conference as an opportunity to inform the public on Senate Bill 88, which will require children up to 8 years of age to use a booster seat.

"These children are not quite tall enough for the seat belt to protect them," said Blackwood when explaining the reasoning behind the law.

GOHS officials also intend to visit schools throughout the state to educate people about the law, Blackwood said.

The law will go into effect on July 1, and will be fully enforced later this year.