Armed with a $140,000 federal grant, the Idaho State Police (ISP) will be on the lookout from May 20 through the Memorial Day holiday and into the summer for drivers not wearing their seat belts. However, that has raised a question about the enforcement of the Idaho law since a seat belt violation is considered a secondary violation.
Reed Hollingshead, spokesman for the Idaho Department of Transportation, described the seat belt campaign as an “event,” explaining that it is being funded by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA).
According to Hollingshead, NHTSA provided the state of Idaho with $140,000 for the “Click It, Don’t Risk It” effort, and the state is required to spend half of that on marketing and advertising the effort to encourage seat belt usage, while the other half is to be spent on law enforcement.
However, Rep. Joe Palmer, R-Meridian, chairman of the House Transportation Committee, said “There is no primary law in Idaho that requires one to wear a seat belt. Driving without a seat belt is a secondary violation, and an officer must observe a driver violating another law before they can be stopped for a seat belt violation.”
Palmer is correct, according to Sgt. Michael Wendler of ISP, about the limitations of seat belt law enforcement laws in Idaho. “We can’t write tickets for seat belt violations unless a driver is caught doing something else that is in violation of state law. But we are still putting out the word and we will enforce the seat belt law. This is a very serious matter. We just recently had two crashes involving fatalities in Gooding County, and we believe the outcome of those collisions could have been different had everyone in the vehicles been wearing seat belts.”
On Friday, ISP issued a press release urging Idaho motorists to “buckle up,” and also announced that officers intend to begin “cracking down” on motorists who don’t use seat belts.
"As we kick off the busy summer driving season it's important that everyone buckles up every time they go out, both day and night—no excuses," Wendler said in the press release." Our officers are prepared to ticket anyone they come in contact with who is not wearing their seat belt—Click It, Don't Risk It."
“Click It, Don’t Risk It” is the name that ISP has given to a statewide seat belt buckling initiative. According to Capt. Rob Storm of ISP, the effort has two main components.
“First, we are focusing on education,” Storm told IdahoReporter.com. “We are explaining to as many people as possible why it is important to wear a seat belt. Secondly, we are focusing on violators, and we are warning people that if you are caught operating your vehicle without a seat belt, you will be ticketed.”
ISP’s press release made reference to a national seat belt awareness effort to coincide with Memorial Day. There is a national campaign called “Click It Or Ticket,” while the Idaho program is referred to as “Click It, Don’t Risk It.” A number of states list a seat belt violation as a primary offense, thus the national effort includes states that will be issuing tickets for those caught not wearing a seat belt.
Hollingshead said the Idaho name was chosen for a specific reason, that it is intended to be different than the national motto.
“‘Click It Don’t Risk It’ is Idaho’s adaptation of a broader national effort called ‘Click It Or Ticket,’” Hollingshead explained. “We couldn’t really call it ‘Click It Or Ticket’ precisely because of the limitations on Idaho law regarding seat belt violations.”