Editorial: Buckle up, Arizona ... it's the law

In an effort to save more lives on Arizona's roadways, this month the Governor's Office of Highway Safety is partnering with the Arizona Department of Public Safety and local law enforcement agencies to increase seatbelt usage throughout Arizona. Although Arizona has a secondary seatbelt law, the enforcement campaign is based upon high visibility traffic enforcement with a zero tolerance approach towards seatbelt and child safety seat usage.

As part of the 2011 national Click It or Ticket seatbelt enforcement campaign, law enforcement agencies across the state will be stepping up traffic enforcement patrols and increasing other enforcement efforts to drive home the message, "Buckle up, Arizona ... it's the law." The enforcement mobilization is in effect now through June 5.

Despite widespread efforts to educate drivers about the importance of wearing seat belts, motor vehicles collisions continue to be the leading cause of death and serious injuries to the citizens of our state. Regular seat belt use is the single most effective way to protect people and reduce fatalities in motor vehicle crashes. When worn correctly, seat belts have proven to reduce the risk of fatal injury to front-seat passenger car occupants by 45 percent and by 60 percent for occupants of pickup trucks, SUVs and mini-vans.

Many are anticipating the first three-day weekend of the summer season. Many will celebrate the occasion with backyard barbecues, family get-togethers or a night out on the town. While we encourage everyone to enjoy the long weekend, we urge all not to drink and drive. Designate someone in your group as the driver for the evening and make sure that person doesn't drink.

Per Arizona Revised Statutes, it is unlawful to drive or be in actual physical control of a vehicle while under the influence of intoxicating liquor, any drug, a vapor releasing substance containing a toxic substance, or vapor releasing substances if the person is "impaired to the slightest degree." In Arizona, if one's blood alcohol concentration level is .08 percent or above, they are deemed "impaired."

The costs of a DUI conviction are huge. The financial impact can be devastating. Those convicted must pay fines, surcharges, attorney fees, participate in and pay for substance abuse screenings and treatment, lose time from work to accommodate court appearances, and the cost of car insurance will increase significantly. The stakes are higher for extreme DUI, repeat DUI, and aggravated DUI charges.

Have fun this weekend. Travel safely. Use seatbelts, and as always, please do not drink and drive.

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