If you ask Corporal John Gonzalez for a ride home, you better wear your seatbelt, because if you don't... "Go find another ride," he says. As the holidays approach, the Department of Public Safety is reminding drivers of its "Click It or Ticket" campaign, designed to enforce the state's mandatory seatbelt law.
"Any child under the age of four must be in a car seat. Any child from four to 16 seated anywhere in the vehicle must be restrained by at least a seatbelt system," said Gonzalez. The law applies to adults as well, and if you're caught driving without a seatbelt, the fines can run as high as $200.
"We do not give any warnings, verbal or written warnings. We do give citations for unrestrained occupants as well as children," said Gonzalez.
The no-nonsense approach stems from the seriousness of what can happen. The speed you're traveling magnifies your body weight exponentially. For example, a 180 pound man traveling at 75 miles per hour weighs 13,500 pounds. That's tough enough to stop with a seat belt, without it, the results are devastating.
To help illustrate the point of how speed affects the weight of an object, Officer Gonzalez told us about an accident victim who had a slight pain in his neck. Turns out a pen had become imbedded an inch and a half in his neck. It had to be surgically removed.
"I've seen too many fatalities," said Michael Rasco. He responds to accident scenes for a living. "My family owns DC Wrecking, so I see all kinds of automobile accidents every day, so I work there. I see what happens to people who don't wear their seat belts. I make my kids wear them."