With the Memorial Day weekend approaching, Lewiston and Auburn police departments are advising drivers to buckle up or risk being ticketed.

“Seat belts are the most effective lifesaving feature in a vehicle, however, they only work if you use them and use them correctly,” Auburn police Chief Phil Crowell said. “It only takes a second to snap the buckle on a seat belt, but the benefits can last you a lifetime.”

In 1998, the U.S. Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, developed a national initiative to increase seat belt use to 85 percent by the year 2000 and to 90 percent by 2005. The latest national seat belt use rate was 85 percent in 2010.

“You have too much to lose if you don’t buckle up,” Crowell said. “Using a seat belt will halve your chances of being killed or badly injured in a serious crash, and using the proper age-appropriate car seat in a passenger car will reduce your infant’s chance of fatal injury by 71 percent and your toddler’s by 54 percent.”

According to research compiled by NHTSA, from 1975 through 2009, an estimated 9,310 children under age 5 were saved by child restraints in vehicles.

According to NHTSA, fully 31 percent of passenger vehicle occupants under 5 who were fatally injured in crashes in 2009 were riding unrestrained.

“Remember, never place a rear-facing infant seat in front of an air bag,” Crowell said. “Drivers and front-seat passengers should maintain at least a 10-inch distance between themselves and their air bags.

“While we cannot always avoid a crash, we can take the responsibility to do everything in our power to protect ourselves and our loved ones,” Crowell said.

In Lewiston, Sgt. Danny Lachance said, “We at the Lewiston Police Department want you to enjoy a safe Memorial Day weekend.”

He said police will be extra vigilant over the next couple of weeks, looking for seat belt violations.

Lachance said the department will, as always, also monitor for speed and operating under the influence. He urged drivers to take the extra time and use caution before getting behind the wheel this holiday weekend.

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