Courtesy Photo/Cape Elizabeth Police Station

CAPE ELIZABETH — The Cape Elizabeth Police Department will conduct seat belt enforcement detail and distracted driving detail beginning next week through the summer. 

According to a statement made by the Cape Elizabeth Police Department, many people continue to not buckle up while driving despite statistics that show wearing a seatbelt can save lives when a vehicle is involved in a crash. The enforcement detail is part of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Click it or Ticket campaign. 

“Seatbelts have been proven to be one of the best ways to save your life in a crash. Yet, many still don’t buckle up,” wrote Cape Elizabeth police in a news release. “Worse still, not wearing a seat belt is a habit that will pass on to impressionable youth who, in turn, will think it is safe to not buckle up. The Click it or Ticket campaign focuses on safety education, strong laws, and law enforcement support to save lives.” 

When correctly used by drivers and front-seat passengers, seat belts reduce the risk of death by 45 percent, and lessen the risk of severe injury by 50 percent. In the case of a crash, seat belts prevent drivers and passengers from being ejected during a crash. Those not wearing a seat belt are 30 times more likely to be ejected from a vehicle. In Maine, from January 2018 to May 17, 2021, there were 187 fatal crashes that involved drivers who were not wearing seatbelts. The most common ages involved in these crashes were between the ages of 25 to 34. 

According to the Cape Elizabeth Police Chief Paul Fenton, the police department will take part in 20 details for seatbelt enforcement and 20 for distracted driving. Officers will be on foot and driving around looking for drivers that are on their phones. 

“There is a three-step approach on how we deal with these things,” Fenton said. “Number one is informed people, so we do that by letting the public know we are going to be out there it is not necessary to give a warning but more informative. The next layer is education so were trying to educate people for example at the end of May beginning of June we will be doing some trainings at the middle school and high school about seatbelt awareness that includes a convincer that allows the kids to be in a little car crash. It is like a roller coaster ride where you slide down a bit and then it impacts so you can feel the vibration of it.


“For the younger kids we are going to do a seat belt challenge where we time them getting into the car and getting on their seat belt on and taking off and doing a little fire drill around the car. Enforcement is our third piece and will be starting next week and running through September we’re going to be doing a series of traffic details that are funded by the National Highway Safety Bureau so that is the funding through the state and so we will be doing a series of details where officers will be out doing enforcements. Half the shift will be specifically looking for seatbelts and the other will be distracted driving.”

The police department will also start conducting distracted driving details again this spring and summer. Their goal is to reduce the number of distracted drivers by making the streets safer for motorists, pedestrians, and cyclists. So many people have become too consumed by what is happening on their phone and are paying less attention to the road, the other drivers and pedestrians.  

“I think that officers are seeing an increase in distracted drivers across the country,” Fenton said. “Obviously, enforcement is a big piece of getting people to adhere to the laws. With COVID just wanting to reduce contact those minor offences were not as enforced as strictly over the last couple of years and now this is part of returning to normal, reminding people that we need to be following the rules. We have seen an increase in distracted driving, phone usage and lack of seatbelts. We are just out there trying to inform people, educate them and doing the enforce piece as a last-ditch effort trying to make sure people adhere to the rules.”

Distracted driving means diverting attention from driving and includes talking or texting on the phone, eating or drinking, changing the radio or trying to use a navigation system or anything that takes driver’s eyes off the road. Texting and driving are the top distraction in young drivers. Sending a text can take your eyes off the road for five seconds. In 2019, 3,142 people died in a motor vehicle crash involving a distracted driver. Drivers under the age of 18 cannot interact or talk on a cellphone or handheld electronic device and fines range from $50 to $250. Maine has passed several laws related to distracted drivers. 

“If you know a friend or a family member who does not buckle up when they drive, please ask them to consider changing their habits,” wrote the police department. “Help us spread this lifesaving message before one more friend or family member is killed as a result of this senseless inaction. Seat belts save lives, and everyone — front seat and back, child and adult — needs to remember to buckle up.” 

For more information on distracted driving visit, and search for the Bureau of Highway Safety.

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