HAWAII COUNTY POLICE DEPARTMENT
TRAFFIC SERVICES SECTION
SERGEANT RANDY K. APELE
MARCH 16, 2004
Big Island police have completed the second and final year of a two-year Seat Belt Innovative Demonstration Grant Program for the South Hilo and Puna districts.
The federal grant, administered by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) for towns with a population of 50,000 or more, was targeted at increasing the rates of seat belt usage by directing more resources to developing programs that reach high-risk groups, including youth and rural populations.
The Police Department enforcement efforts resulted in issuing 2,220 seat belt citations and 136 child restraint citations in the South Hilo and Puna districts from April 2003 to March 2004.
A total of 257 seat belt checkpoints were conducted during this period. At these checkpoints, 84 arrests were also made for drug offenses, outstanding warrants, impaired driving and traffic offenses. One checkpoint resulted in the arrest of two persons responsible for stealing a vehicle and the recovery of the stolen vehicle.
The latest seat belt survey, conducted by the University of Hawaii’s Department of Urban and Regional Planning in May 2003, indicated that seat belt usage rates continue to rise in South Hilo and Puna. In that study, the usage rate in South Hilo was measured at 90.8 percent, compared to 83.8 percent in 2000, and the rate for Puna was measured at 88.6 percent, compared to 83.3 percent in 2000.
Community education programs such as the “Click It or Ticket” 3-on-3 Basketball Tournament were held through the grant period to increase awareness of seat belt laws and encourage compliance. “Click It or Ticket” roadway signs were placed on state highways; banners and posters were placed in school and shopping centers; and heavy media campaigns were used to increase awareness.
The Police Department also participated in the “Buckle Up America” campaign in May 2003 and the national “Click It or Ticket” campaign in November 2003. A total of 746 seat belt and 33 child restraint citations were issued during these campaigns.
Sergeant Randy Apele, head of the Traffic Services Section, said that although the demonstration grant is ended, seat belt enforcement remains a top priority in traffic enforcement, and seat belt checkpoints will continue islandwide.
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