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Wesson joins seatbelt effort

WESSON — “Click it or ticket” will soon become a more commonphrase for area residents as the police department joins astate-sponsored effort to get Mississippians to buckle up.

The police department is one of over 30 law enforcement agenciesthat received federal funds to increase the number of peoplewearing seatbelts in vehicles.

“Historically, the state of Mississippi has not been better than50 percent in the use of seatbelts,” said Wesson Police Officer JimHampton. “I’d like to see more people wearing seatbelts because Iknow from personal experience that it can save lives.”

As part of the program, surveys were conducted before theprogram began this week and will be conducted every quarter untilthe end of the program in June 2002.

“The important thing for people to realize is that for the stateto continue getting federal funds, there has to be an improvement,”said Hampton.

During the first three surveys, vehicles traveling throughWesson had an average of 54 percent of people buckled up and 46percent unbuckled.

The “Click it or ticket” campaign must bring a 10 percentincrease in order for the state to continue receiving federalfunds, said Hampton.

While conducting the surveys, Hampton received mixed reviewsfrom local residents he talked to at seatbelt checkpoints.

“Most of the adults are thankful that we’re doing this, but alot of the people get mad when I tell them to buckle up,” saidHampton, mentioning rude comments he heard.

Many drivers simply looked at him when he asked them to buckleup for their safety, and attempted to drive off. Most hesitantlycomplied, though, after Hampton asked them to stop and put theirseatbelts on right then.

“It’s amazing how stubborn some people can be,” he commented.”Some people say they won’t wear a seatbelt because it could hurtthem in a wreck. I have never seen a wreck where seatbelts havecaused anyone to die, and I’ve been in law enforcement since1974.”

Some drivers and passengers use the excuse that they would notwant to be confined if their vehicle landed in water or caughtfire.

Hampton pointed out that those scenarios are very uncommon. Onthe other hand, he has seen how people not wearing seatbelts cantie up medical personnel and law enforcement when other emergenciescould arise.

During the campaign, he plans to speak to juveniles and adultsabout the importance of wearing seatbelts. He hopes parents willset examples for their children and a life-saving trend will be setin the area.

“The key to solving a lot of these problems is education,” saidHampton.