For some, it was a rocky way to start a Monday, snared at a Pittsburgh police traffic checkpoint on the South Side.
Police stopped eastbound traffic on West Carson Street near Station Square for several hours during the morning to check for seat belt usage. While they were at it, they checked driver's licenses, registrations, inspection stickers and insurance coverage.
Drivers who didn't have their papers in order were pulled off the road and cited. Those who had suspended licenses saw their vehicles impounded and towed.
Drivers encounter police checkpoint on South Side
Pittsburgh police stopped eastbound traffic on West Carson Street earlier today to check on today for seat belt usage, vehicle registrations, inspection stickers and insurance papers. (Video by Jon Schmitz; 5/20/2013)
The checkpoint marked the start of a statewide "Click It or Ticket" campaign that will involve 600 law enforcement agencies through June 9, said Jay Ofsanik, safety press officer for the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation.
"We're doing this as an awareness and education campaign, to be followed by enforcement," he said.
People in Pennsylvania generally wear their seat belts. PennDOT calculates the compliance rate for last year at 83.5 percent, down a tick from 83.8 percent the previous year. But those who refuse to buckle up make up a greatly disproportionate share of crash fatalities.
In 2012 there were 1,310 fatalities on state roads, and 503 of the victims were not wearing seat belts.
The worst hours for crashes that kill unbelted drivers and passengers are from midnight to 3 a.m., according to PennDOT. With that in mind, about three-quarters of the enforcement activity will occur at night, Mr. Ofsanik said. It will include checkpoints similar to Monday's and roving patrols.
Pennsylvania's seat belt law is relatively weak. Officers cannot write a ticket unless the driver has committed some other infraction, and the fine is $10, with $50 in added fees. Drivers under 18, however, can be stopped and cited just for a seat belt violation.
Most of the motorists who were lined up at the West Carson checkpoint were in compliance with the seat belt law and had valid licenses and paperwork, said Pittsburgh police Sgt. Terry Donnelly. No information was available on the number of citations issued.
One car traveling the opposite direction (and not through the checkpoint) had a curious front-seat passenger, who leaned out the window and asked "What's going on?"
"Put your seat belt on," ordered police Cmdr. Scott Schubert.
Another driver who was stopped at the checkpoint, Ron Gainer of Clairton, said, "Yeah, I guess so," when asked if he thought the exercise was worthwhile. His paperwork was in order and his belt was on, and Officer Ron Wolfe sent him on his way with: "Thank you for wearing your seat belt. Have a good morning."
Another driver, Charles McHenry, wasn't impressed, saying "they should do it Friday evening when people are out here who really need to be checked."
Jon Schmitz: email@example.com or 412-263-1868. First Published May 20, 2013 3:30 PM