Muncie Patrol Officer Darrin Clark wants motorist to know that seat belt laws are taken seriously by the city police department.
Many motorists believe a law requiring them to buckle up is unconstitutional, that it infringes on their rights, said Clark, coordinator of Muncie's Operation Pullover, part of the larger Click It or Ticke campaign.
Muncie Police set up "seat belt enforcement zones" at high-volume, four-way stops each day this week. Police were at the intersection of Memorial Drive and Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue Wednesday. Other locations this week included University Avenue and Reserve Street on Tuesday and 23rd and Gharkey streets on Monday.
Since Monday, police have issued over 150 citations to motorists who were not wearing seat belts, including eight unrestrained child citations. Six arrests were also made.
The zones will be in operation this week and next week.
"Driving is a privilege, not a right," Clark said. "Everyone pays for the few motorists who choose not to wear their seat belts."
Medical costs are paid by insurance. If insurance companies have to pay for injuries resulting from a motorist not wearing a seat belt, the costs are going to trickle down into higher premiums for all consumers, Clark said.
Clark also said he asks motorists if they've considered how their death in an accident would affect their family.
"You can almost see a light bulb come on, like they hadn't considered it before," Clark said.
Many motorists argue that seat belts are more dangerous than helpful, citing incidents of fire or water submersion and saying that they'd rather be thrown from a vehicle than be trapped inside. According to statistics available through the Click It or Ticket program, less than one percent of all crashes involve fires or water submersion. Also, three out of four people who are ejected from a vehicle will not survive.
Clark also said motorists who wear their belts incorrectly, such as under their arm, might as well not wear one at all. Motorists with automatic seat belts must also be sure to wear both the shoulder strap and the lap belt. Each is useless without the other, Clark said. Click It or Ticket statistics indicate that wearing a seat belt increases the chance of surviving an accident by 50 percent.
Clark has mixed responses from motorists who are pulled over. Most courteously acknowledge that they had not been wearing a seat belt and take their $25 citation and go on their way. Others argue about how unfair a seat belt citation is.
Clark said that he has had more people argue intensely over a seat belt citation than over a speeding ticket for going 25 mph over the limit, which runs about $130.
Other states issue seat belt citations of $100 or more.
One woman was issued a citation and then proceeded to praise the officers for their efforts.
"It's not about tickets," said Clark. "It's about saving lives."