Ohio State patrol warns: Buckle up or face a fine

| 5/2/2002

Anyone traveling through the Buckeye State who doesn't use a seat belt will get ticketed under a statewide crackdown ordered by the OHP. The move is part of a zero-tolerance policy, coupled with a new "What's Holding You Back?'' education campaign that kicked off May 1.

Officials say they hope the move will save 120 lives a year. According to the Columbus Dispatch, it also means the patrol could write an additional 50,000 tickets this year for seat-belt violations, many of them during the busy travel time between Memorial Day and Labor Day. Troopers issued 202,411 such citations last year.

Ohio law does not permit motorists to be cited only for a seat-belt violation. Troopers can issue a seat-belt warning instead of a ticket. But Col. Kenneth L. Morckel, patrol superintendent, is making the ticket mandatory.

Under Ohio's present "secondary law" drivers can be ticketed for not wearing their belts only if there is another violation, such as an accident, drunken driving or speeding.

The majority of other law-enforcement agencies in Ohio are expected to go along with the patrol's zero-tolerance policy, Morckel said. He also is sending letters to judges and prosecutors statewide asking them to enforce the law when citations are issued. Reportedly, Morckel said the policy change is not just about writing more tickets. "There is a quota system and it's the number of body bags,'' Morckel said. "That's way too high, and I'm trying to bring it down.