The Houston Police Department will join a statewide effort to encourage youth seat belt usage. 

The Houston and Licking Police Departments will be joining with other Missouri law enforcement agencies for an aggressive youth seat belt mobilization and DWI saturation March 15-31.

As part of the operation, both will have extra officers on duty for St. Patrick’s Day weekend (March 16-18), assigned specifically to DWI patrol.

“We’ll be out in force, seeing what happens,” HPD Sgt. Tim Ceplina said. “St. Patrick’s Day may not be all that big around here, but it is in nearby places like Rolla, so we’ll probably see some activity.”

During the entire period, officers from both departments will be cracking down on seat belt law violators. Statistics show that only 67 percent of teens in Missouri wear seat belts when driving or riding in a motor vehicle, and that eight out of 10 teens killed in traffic crashes are unbuckled.

Under the Graduated Drivers License law, teens are required to wear a seat belt and it’s a primary offense, meaning they can be pulled over solely for not being buckled in.

“Local motorists should be prepared for stepped up seat belt enforcement,” LPD Chief Scott Lindsey said. “We’ll be out there to remind you that seat belts can – and do – save lives.”

Authorities agree that seat belt use is the single most effective way to protect people and reduce fatalities in motor vehicle crashes. In 2011, 220 people were killed and 916 seriously injured around the state in crashes involving an impaired driver.

Houston police made 43 DWI arrests last year, while Licking made 17.

Consequences of drunk driving include jail time, loss of driver’s license, or being sentenced to use ignition interlocks. Insurance rates typically go up, and other financial hits occur such as attorney fees, court costs, lost time at work, and the potential loss of job or job prospects.

Violators can also face tremendous personal embarrassment and humiliation when family, friends and co-workers find out.

“Driving drunk is simply not worth all the consequences,” Lindsey said. “Our message is simple and unwavering: drive sober or get pulled over.”

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