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Police officers in Washington to look this week for unbuckled drivers and passengers

Several Washington policing agencies will begin a seat belt emphasis patrol this week.
Courtesy of Washington Traffic Safety Commission
Several Washington policing agencies will begin a seat belt emphasis patrol this week.

Washington state troopers and other police around the state today [Monday] are looking for motorists who aren’t wearing seat belts.

“The goal is really to remind people to drive safely and make sure that everybody in the car is buckled up so they don’t get pulled over,” said Mark McKechnie from the state’s Traffic Safety Commission. Washington law requires drivers and passengers to wear seat belts when their car is in motion. The law allows for a $124 ticket for unbuckled passengers.

McKechnie says Washington is participating in a national seat belt emphasis campaign for the next three weeks.

“People go out on our roads and highways and observe. They have spotters and counters who actually watch people while they’re driving and look to see who’s buckled up and who isn’t and they count them and that’s what they come up with is this figure,” he said.

McKechnie says seat belt usage slipped slightly statewide last year, from 94.2% in 2021 to 93.9% in 2022. That’s still about a point higher than in the years immediately before the pandemic and 10 points higher than when Washington’s current seat belt law took effect in 2002. McKechnie says the reason for the decrease isn’t known and could simply be a sampling difference.

One point of concern is that an increasing percentage of Washington’s traffic fatalities involve people who weren’t wearing seat belts. Twenty-three percent of the 736 people who died in traffic accidents in 2022 were unbuckled, the highest rate in eight years.

Statistics show people tend to wear their seat belts more when they drive state routes —about 95% — than they do when they drive city streets or county roads, about 91-to-92%.

One of the Northwest's most seasoned reporters is returning to his SPR roots. Doug Nadvornick will be heard frequently on KPBX and KSFC reporting on local news.