Buckling: Police checkpoint season opens
Albemarle County police headed out to Greenwood May 18 to kick off the "Click It or Ticket" season with a traffic checkpoint on Route 250. "Click It" is a national campaign that encourages seatbelt use with the threat of ticketing. In Virginia, where non-use is a secondary offense, police can't stop drivers solely for not wearing a seatbelt, but if a motorist is stopped for, say, speeding and doesn't have that belt fastened, then they get a ticket.
Albemarle police promise checkpoints the next two weeks, and any violation, such as improper registration, can earn a non-seatbelt-wearer a ticket. "If you don't have a seatbelt on but no other violation, you won't get a ticket," says Sergeant Pete Mainzer with county police.
That was a lesson in secondary offenses Albemarle police learned in 2003 when then commonwealth's attorney Jim Camblos refused to prosecute a seatbelt ticket if there was no other violation.
The U.S. 29 corridor is the primary focus of the Click It campaign, which runs through May 31 and will include speed traps and saturation patrols. "Five people have been killed so far this year in the county," says Mainzer, "and three out of four fatal accidents were on 29."
Mainzer denies what he says is a mistaken impression some people have that police have ticket quotas or get to spend the money collected in fines from all the ticketing. "There's never been a quota in our department," he says. "The fine money goes to the locality general fund, not to the police department."
So Click It or Ticket offers no police perks? Says Mainzer, "We get to have some satisfaction knowing maybe we kept someone from killing themselves or someone else."