Click it or ticket on Highway 61

Members of five law enforcement agencies gather at Wyoming City Hall before heading out for Friday’s seat belt enforcement saturation. (Photo by Clint Riese)

Members of five law enforcement agencies gather at Wyoming City Hall before heading out for Friday’s seat belt enforcement saturation. (Photo by Clint Riese)

Chisago County agencies continue tradition of enforcement saturations

 

Clint Riese
News Editor

Highway 61 was in the spotlight Friday afternoon as members of the Wyoming Police Department, Chisago County Sheriff’s Office, Lakes Area Police Department, North Branch Police Department and State Patrol scoured the state roadway.

Bank robber on the loose? Escaped inmate on the run?

No. But all the same, the collaboration was the product of a potentially grave situation. The multi-agency effort was part of a federally funded enforcement wave focusing on seat belt usage.

“When there is a crash, the unbelted ones are the ones getting critically injured or killed,” Chief Kevin Stenson of the Lakes Area Police Department said as the agencies gathered around 2 p.m. to start the four-hour saturation.

Stenson’s department has secured funding for the enforcement waves under the Toward Zero Deaths program each year since 1994. That is no small feat, as a drop in productivity in any given year can lead to denial of funds for the next. The federal dollars allow for representation from each Chisago County law enforcement agency on about nine enforcement waves per year. Each wave consists of work in several areas throughout the county. The focus of the patrol efforts rotates. Next up is DWI, Stenson said, followed by speeding.

On Friday, the crew kept an eye out for unbuckled drivers. The good news, Stenson said, is that local seat belt usage is rising toward 94 percent. The bad news: That means 6 percent of vehicle occupants are taking an unnecessary risk. Studies show that a single ticket will not have nearly the effect on changing that bad habit as two tickets, Stenson said. That is the thought behind the TZD program, which pays for the overtime hours officers put in for the extra patrol.

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