Pocatello Police Department uses $50,000 grant for seat belt education and enforcement

The Pocatello Police Department is hoping a new $50,000 grant will help increase seat belt usage among residents.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration approached the department as one of three departments in the nation to participate in a traffic safety enforcement program. Pocatello residents fall below state and national averages for seat belt use.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, seat belt use reached a record high of 90 percent in 2016. States like Idaho where not wearing a seat belt is a secondary violation find seat belt usage is below national average, at 83 percent. Pocatello falls below both those statistics at 79 percent.

“We bring officers in on their off-duty time and pay them over time to work, specifically this grant,” Captain Cliff Kelley of the Pocatello Police Department, told KID Newsradio. “That will be for about a 10-day period starting on the 22nd of May. They’ll come in and that’s their whole focus is going to be traffic enforcement,”

During the enforcement periods, officers will be looking for seat belt and traffic violations.

“It’s kind of a different type program where they use two officers for the enforcement,” Captain Cliff Kelley of the Pocatello Police Department, told KID Newsradio. “Two officers in the same car to do the enforcement and you know, one is talking about the educational component and talks to the driver about using seat belts and those kind of things, the other deals with the enforcement aspect.”

Not wearing a seat belt is considered a secondary violation in Idaho, which means officers cannot pull someone over for not wearing their seat belt. But, officers can cite seat belt violations in addition to citing traffic violations.

“Say you stop somebody for speeding, which is a primary violation, then they’re also not wearing their seatbelt, you can cite for both of those because one’s a primary and one’s a secondary violation,” Kelley said.

Kelley says he hopes the initiative reminds people to put their seat belts on before they get pulled over.

“What we like to see is people will hear about this and they’re like ‘Oh, they’re out there looking for seat belt violations, I’ll maybe wear my seat belt today,’ and then get in that habit of wearing a seatbelt,” Kelley said. “That’s the whole idea is to get the word out and to get people to think about it before they go because a lot of times, people, if they’re not in the habit of wearing their seat belt, they may not even think about it when they get in the car.”

The department will conduct several traffic enforcement periods over the next two years. Pocatello Police conducted one in April.

According to the city of Pocatello, the next enforcement period will be held from May 22 through June 4. The last two enforcement periods will be conducted around the 2017 Thanksgiving holiday and April 5 through April 15, 2018.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, seat belts saved almost 14,000 lives in 2015.