Area police will increase presence for July 4 holiday

Police took to the roads with traffic safety checkpoints starting Monday. The effort is part of the Governor’s Traffic Safety Bureau program. Law enforcement agencies from across the state take part in the high-visibility enforcement effort.

Sgt. Rick Bellile, with the Marshalltown Police Department, said the police department usually participates in the traffic project on Thanksgiving, St. Patrick’s Day, Memorial Day, Labor Day and the Fourth of July.

“There is a lot of traffic those days We try to make sure we got some extra officers because we got people coming and going out of town,” he said. “Our goal is not to write a bunch of tickets. I would rather not write any.”

With the increase in travel, the traffic project aims to make drivers safer by increasing police presence.

According to the National Safety Council, using a seat belt increases a motorist’s odds of surviving a crash by 50 percent. Seat belts saved more than 75,000 lives from 2004 to 2008.

Last year’s traffic enforcement program, held July 2 to July 8, recorded the following police contact that resulted in a citation, arrest or warning: six for operating while intoxicated, 13 seat belt violations, eight for speeding and 25 for miscellaneous traffic violations.

Bellile said in the eight years he has been organizing the GTSB program locally, he hasn’t noticed any trends that would indicate a larger issue at play. The numbers tend to fluctuate, he said.

However, with stiffer penalties surrounding seat belt enforcement, he said those numbers have not seen an increase. Investing just a few seconds to buckle one’s seat belt can make a huge difference, he said.

“I am hoping a trend is that people wear their seat belts,” Bellilie said. “People are starting to wake up a little bit.”

A 2009 National Highway Traffic Safety Administration study estimates more than 1,600 lives could be saved and 22,000 injuries prevented if seat belt use was 90 percent in every state.

The increased enforcement will continue through Sunday.