Wednesday, May 23, 2007
Federal Gas Taxes Fund Seatbelt Roadblocks
More than $30 million in federal gas tax dollars will be spent between now and June 3 to encourage local and state police to set up ticketing roadblocks under a program called "Click it or Ticket." Orchestrated by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, Click it or Ticket offers local law enforcement officers overtime pay to stop and search motorists at random locations. Officers will then issue an expensive citation to anyone who neglects or chooses not to wear a seatbelt. Often, officers are also able to issue secondary tickets for other violations, such as driving with expired paperwork. The ticketing program's kick-off met with a rough start when reporters filmed President George W. Bush driving his truck on his private property in Texas without a seatbelt. While legal, reporters questioned White House Press Secretary Tony Snow about the policy implications yesterday. "Well, it's always important to wear seatbelts, especially when driving slowly on the ranch," Snow said jokingly. States have embraced the program with enthusiasm. In New Jersey, for example, $824,000 in federal gas tax money is distributed in the form of $4000 grants to 206 New Jersey police agencies across the state. Each will use the money to pay officers extra to operate the roadblocks. In Michigan, state police announced that they intend to conduct 800 roadblocks, as the successful program last year raised $1,499,030 in revenue from 23,062 tickets. Since the Michigan Supreme Court held that roadblocks violated the state constitution's protection against unreasonable searches, police look into cars as they wait at stop lights and stop signs without technically forcing them to pull over, as is the practice in other states. Since Monday, thousands of seatbelt tickets have been issued across the country.