ANGOLA — The Tri-County Traffic Safety Partnership was awarded $55,000 grant from the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute to conduct several high-visibility enforcement campaigns designed to prevent traffic injuries and fatalities.

The partnership is made up of officers from Angola Police Department, Steuben County Sheriff’s Department, Butler Police Department, DeKalb County Sheriff’s Department, Auburn Police Department, Garrett Police Department and LaGrange Police Department.

The funding was provided by the National Traffic Safety Highway Administration, as part of the state’s Comprehensive Highway Injury Reduction Program (CHIRP).

“We’re always watching for impaired and dangerous drivers, but certain times of the year, usually those associated with heavy drinking or substance abuse, come with additional risks and challenges,” said Matt Kling, Angola Police Department. “This grant allows us to step up our efforts during those periods so that we can further keep road users and members of our community safe.”

The funds will be used by the department to conduct overtime patrols and carry out several targeted enforcement campaigns throughout the year. Those include national mobilizations, like Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over and Click It or Ticket, as well as others developed and driven by the state, such as the Stop Arm Violation Enforcement program.

Although officers will be watching for all traffic violations during the enforcement periods, the campaigns mainly target dangerous, impaired or unrestrained drivers, and will occur during peak travel seasons and notorious drinking holidays, like St. Patrick’s Day and Labor Day weekend.

“When it comes to traffic safety, zero fatalities is the only acceptable number,” said Robert Duckworth, ICJI Traffic Safety Director. “Until we get to that point, we’ll continue to work with our law enforcement partners to reinforce just how important it is to buckle up, drive sober and follow the speed limit.”

This month the Tri-County Traffic Safety Partnership will join law-enforcement agencies across the state to increase enforcement of seat-belt laws for Operation Belt Up. Highly visible patrols will be watching for unrestrained passengers in cars and trucks, both children and adults, the front seat and back, both day and night.

Operation Belt Up promotes a coordinated effort to improve occupant protection strategies, and reduce injuries and fatalities related to seat belt usage. Overtime police patrols are paid with National Highway Traffic Safety Administration funds administered by the ICJI.

“Why are police warning everyone before the seat-belt crack-down begins? Because we respond to traffic crashes and we see the preventable deaths and painful injuries from motorists not buckling up,” said Matt Kling, Patrolman Angola Police Department.

Indiana law requires the driver and all passengers to buckle up. Children under age eight must be properly restrained in child car seat or booster seat.

The share of Hoosiers not buckling up has dropped to 6.6%, below the national average of 10.4%. But new data from ICJI and the Indiana University Public Policy Institute show that unrestrained motorists still make up 53% of traffic deaths.

Unrestrained motorists are more likely to die in crashes by 10 times in cars and SUVs, 14 times in pickup trucks and 15 times in vans.

“Has this message ‘clicked’ for you?” asked Kling. “If you have a friend or a family member who does not buckle up, speak up! Ask them to change their habits.”

Drivers under 25 years old, especially young male drivers, are the least likely to be buckled during a crash. Injury rates among unrestrained motorists are also higher:

• In rural counties,

• When a driver is speeding or impaired, and

• On weekend nights between 11 p.m. and 4 a.m.

During a crash, unrestrained passengers become projectiles that can injure or kill others in the car.

Traffic crashes are the leading killer of children ages 1-13, and adults set the example. Parents and caregivers who do not buckle up are more likely to have kids who are improperly restrained. That means one ticket for the driver and one for each unrestrained child.

Choose the safest car seat for your child’s height and weight at www.safercar.gov/therightseat. Find a certified car-seat safety technician to assist with installation and proper usage at www.preventinjury.org/Child-Passenger-Safety/Child-Safety-Seat-Inspection-Stations or through the SaferCar app on the App Store or Google Play.

For youth and adults, proper seat-belt use includes:

• Secure the lap belt across your hips and pelvis, below your stomach.

• Place the shoulder belt across the middle of your chest and rib cage, away from your neck.

• Never put the shoulder belt behind your back or under an arm.

• If your seat belt doesn’t fit you, or you have an older car with lap belts only, ask your dealer or vehicle manufacturer about seat-belt adjusters, extenders or retrofits.

In addition to Operation Belt up patrols, the Tri-County Traffic Safety Partnership will continue to patrol for impaired motorists throughout the coming year.

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