DIXFIELD – Police officers from this town will step up enforcement of the state law requiring the seat belt use beginning May 19.

Saturation patrols conducted at various times of the day, particularly near the school buildings, will continue through June 1, thanks to an $1,800 grant from the Maine Bureau of Highway Safety and in partnership with the national Click It or Ticket program.

“Hopefully people will realize that wearing seat belts saves lives, and it’s the law,” said police Chief Richard Pickett. “A big part of this is education.”

He said notices have been sent to Dirigo High School Principal Dan Hart requesting that all students be informed of the patrols as well as of the greater safety young people have when they wear seat belts.

“This would give them the best chance if they get into an accident,” Pickett said.

Prior to a state law that went into effect on Sept. 20, 2007, ticketing for not wearing a seat belt was secondary to the reason an officer may have stopped a vehicle. With the new law, police may stop vehicles in which the driver or passengers are not buckled up.

Fines are $50 for the first offense, $125 for the second, and $250 for the third and subsequent offenses.

Pickett said 2008 is the fifth year his department has received a grant to help enforce the usage of seat belts.

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