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Santa Monica Police Will Be Extra Vigilant This Holiday Weekend

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By Lookout Staff

May 20, 2015 -- Two crucial things to remember when getting behind the wheel this holiday weekend: buckle up and be sober.

Santa Monica police will be on high guard this three-day Memorial Day weekend looking for seatbelt scofflaws and intoxicated drivers, said Santa Monica Police Department spokesman Lt. Richard Lewis

On Monday local police launched a “Click It or Ticket” campaign aimed at preventing deaths and serious injuries attributed to unrestrained vehicle occupants. The campaign will run through the end of this month, Lewis said.

Nearly half of the 21,131 people killed as occupants of vehicle involved in collisions in 2013 were not wearing seatbelts, Lewis noted, citing National Highway Traffic Safety Administration statistics.

Most of those unbelted occupants were killed in crashes that occurred between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m., so the focus of the campaign will be on nighttime enforcement, he said.

In California, 500 people died in crashes in 2013 after not buckling up.

“Every day, drivers and their passengers who do not wear their seatbelts lose their lives in motor vehicle collisions,” said SMPD Capt. Ken Semko. “As we approach Memorial Day weekend and the summer vacation season, we want to make sure people are doing the one best thing that can save them in a crash, buckling up.”

California’s minimum penalty for a seatbelt infraction is $161, said Lewis.  

“If you ask the family members of those unrestrained people who were killed in crashes, they’ll tell you -- they wish their loved ones had buckled up,” said Semko.

Along with the seatbelt crackdown, SMDP will staff a DUI driver’s license checkpoint at an undisclosed location starting at 7 p.m. on Saturday, May 23, and continuing until 3 a.m. Sunday morning, Lewis said.

Traffic officers at the checkpoint will screen drivers for signs of alcohol and/or drug impairment and also verify that motorists have valid driver’s licenses, he said.

The most recent numbers from the state Office of Traffic Safety showed 802 people were killed in DUI crashes in California in 2012.

A recent study found that 30 percent of drivers in fatal collisions had traces of one or more drugs in their systems. The study showed that more drivers tested positive for drug impairment (14 percent) than they did for alcohol (7.3 percent), Lewis noted.

SMPD officials received a grant from the state Office of Traffic Safety to fund this weekend’s checkpoint, said Lewis.

People can report a drunken driver by calling 9-1-1, Lewis said.

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