'Click It or Ticket' cracking down on drivers

LAWRENCEVILLE - State officials recently announced the "Click It or Ticket" initiative as a "major wave" of safety belt checkpoints meant to curb highway fatalities that typically mar the Thanksgiving holiday.

On the local front, authorities maintain they also plan to keep a diligent eye on motorists who don't buckle up.

Launched Nov. 17, the latest "Click It" campaign is a high-visibility wave of safety belt checkpoints and patrol activity meant to net seat belt violators traversing Georgia, said Jim Shuler, Governor's Office of Highway Safety spokesman. The initiative goes until Sunday.

Under Georgia's Primary Safety Belt Law, police are authorized to ticket violators by simply observing unbelted drivers or passengers. Second chances will be hard to come by this season, Shuler said.

"During the busy Thanksgiving holiday travel period, seat belt violators will be ticketed on the first offense," Shuler said.

Officials are shining a special light on the Sunday following Thanksgiving, which Shuler called the busiest traffic day of the year. Gov. Sonny Perdue recently declared it "Drive Safer Sunday."

Motor vehicle fatalities tend to peak across the state during the holiday season, Shuler said. Generally speaking, Gwinnett bucks that trend, said Cpl. David Schiralli, Gwinnett County Police Department spokesman.

"Holidays in general don't result in higher numbers of fatalities," Schiralli said.

Rather, the particular day of the week holds bearing on the treachery of local roadways. Fridays, Saturday and Wednesdays, in descending order, have shown the highest number of Gwinnett roadway fatalities this year, Schiralli said.

Gwinnett police have yet to designate a specific number of safety belt checkpoints to coincide with the "Click It" initiative. Schiralli said checkpoints are conducted at random intervals throughout the year.

As of Monday, Gwinnett police had recorded 42 traffic deaths in the county in 2008, down from 59 deaths at the same point last year - a roughly 30 percent decrease, Schiralli said.

"We haven't recorded a fatality in the county since mid-October," Schiralli said this week. "That's a great run."