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Click It or Ticket still needed

By Ed Brock

The Shillow sisters of Hampton say they aren't worried about being stopped at a Click It or Ticket checkpoint.

"We always drive with our seat belts on," 16-year-old Katherine Shillow said.

"You don't even drive," responded big sister Kirsten Shillow, 17, who does drive.

But the girls said they know that the seatbelt law, the enforcement of which is the primary goal of the statewide Click It or Ticket campaign, applies to everybody in a car.

The Thanksgiving holiday campaign currently under way will last until Nov. 30.

"Basically we're doing Click It or Ticket and going straight into Operation Zero Tolerance (the statewide campaign focused on preventing drunk driving)," Clayton County Police Capt. Tom Israel. "We are observing a lot of compliance even for pickup truck drivers (who are excluded from the law requiring seatbelt use). It's been a very good week so far."

Israel heads up the Clayton County police traffic enforcement unit and also commands the Highway Enforcement of Aggressive Traffic Unit. That unit is a joint effort between police departments in Clayton, Henry, Cobb, Gwinnett and Fulton counties as well as the Atlanta and College Park police departments.

The Governor's Office of Highway Safety and the International Association of Chief's of Police have honored the program for its productivity, and Israel said that productivity will increase even more during the Thanksgiving holidays.

"We're going to hit some main roads, we're going to hit some back roads and we're even going to set up in some sub-divisions," Israel said, speaking about the county units.

The focus of Click It or Ticket this year is on teen and young drivers like Katherine and Kirsten Shillow. Drivers between the ages of 16 and 20 are most likely to ride unbuckled, according to the highway safety officials.

Two out of five deaths among teens result from traffic accidents and 57 percent of the teens killed in accidents in Georgia were not wearing seat belts.

While statewide compliance with seatbelt laws is at 84.5 percent and Morrow's usage rate is around 89 percent, Morrow police Capt. Richard Murphy said they have seen an increase in seatbelt citations issued in this round of Click It or Ticket.

"We had a pretty good summer but it seems like people have slacked off," said Murphy, adding that the drop may be due to less visibility of police road checks since the summer. "I think what it showed us in this last month or so is we still have to keep it up."

Murphy also said the department would set up road checks on major roads like Mt. Zion Boulevard and Southlake Parkway, but they also plan to hit side roads like Morrow Road, Old Rex Morrow Road and Phillips Drive.

Other municipal departments in the county as well as the Georgia State Patrol are participating in Click It or Ticket.