The "Click It or Ticket" push to remind motorists that seat belts save lives will involve more than 270 Indiana law enforcement agencies, including seven in Marion County.
Officials say the enforcement efforts were being planned long before anyone knew lawmakers would eliminate seat belt enforcement zones. The law also requires every driver and passenger to buckle up. Gov. Mitch Daniels signed the legislation May 10.
"The goal of 'Click It or Ticket' has never been writing tickets," said Mica Perry, communications director for the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute. "The goal was to save lives and to increase seat belt usage."
Perry said the zones are "standard practice," and police across the state conducted similar enforcement efforts last summer.
"It's not a knee-jerk, special thing," she said.
Police will adapt to the new ban, Perry said.
"Law enforcement can still pull drivers over for not wearing their seat belts," she said. "They'll be looking to do enforcement in other ways."
The ban on seat belt checkpoints was a compromise to garner support for changes that require virtually all passengers and drivers of all types of vehicles in Indiana to wear seat belts. In the past, pickup truck drivers and back-seat passengers were among those not required to wear seat belts.
"I really just think law enforcement ought to be protecting me from someone else rather than myself," said state Rep. Jerry Torr, R-Carmel, who proposed amending the legislation to prohibit seat belt checkpoints.
Torr said he is not a fan of the law, but he understands Indiana could miss out on millions of dollars in grants if it doesn't mandate seat belts.
By requiring seat belt use in pickups, Indiana is eligible for an additional $15.7 million in federal money for highway safety programs.
In Marion County, officers will conduct 126 seat belt checkpoints today through June 10.
Don Bickel, director of the Marion County Traffic Safety Partnership, said the checkpoints were designed to educate, not punish.
"Basically, they are designed to get people's attention to buckle up, reduce injuries and save lives in crashes."
Police in Marion County have far more pressing matters than seat belts, Torr said, including a carjacking rate that is double last year's and at least 45 homicides reported this year.
"If I was a Marion County resident, I think I'd be very upset by that, with the crime going on in Indianapolis right now," Torr said. "I think they ought to set up every one of those (seat belt checkpoints) in an area where there's been a carjacking so at least they can do something else with their time."