Police across the state will mark the holiday weekend by stepping up seat belt enforcement.
Maine Highway Safety Director Lauren Stewart said 68 police agencies, including state police, the Kennebec County Sheriff’s Office and police dedartments in Augusta, Gardiner and Monmouth are splitting $226,000 in federal highway safety funding to conduct overtime patrols enforcing the seat belt laws.
The campaign, which started Monday, coincides with a national effort that will continue until June 1, state Department of Public Safety spokesman Steve McCausland said in a news release.
Stewart said half of last year’s fatal crashes in Maine involved drivers who were not buckled up.
“Although most of the state’s drivers use their seat belts, there is a minority who haven’t gotten the message,” she said. “The two week âbuckle up — no excuses’ campaign will target those violators.”
In addition to the seat belt effort, state police have planned more than 40 enforcement activities of their own through the weekend as part of their annual Memorial Day safety efforts. The chief of the state police, Col. Robert Williams, said troopers will be looking for drunken and distracted drivers and aggressive driving, in addition to the seat belt violations. In addition, Williams said the state police plane will be flying over the state’s major highways, looking for violators from the air.
“Memorial Day sets the tone for the summer driving season and our goal is to make it a safe one,” Williams said.
Two people were killed in traffic crashes during the Memorial Day weekend last year in Maine, and three people died during the 2012 holiday weekend.
Augmenting the seat belt and state police efforts will be 50 of the state’s newest police officers, who graduated Friday from the Maine Criminal Justice Academy in Vassalboro. Many of those new officers, representing cities, towns and counties, will be on duty this weekend, McCausland said.