Jennyne Pinter, firstname.lastname@example.org
The town of Benton received a grant to help increase patrols and enforce the use of seatbelts.
Benton police have received a grant from the Louisiana Highway Traffic Safety Commission/National Highway Safety Administration to fund a ‘Click It or Ticket’ campaign.
Benton officers will be working around the clock conducting saturation patrols which will add an additional 100 duty hours from May 21 to June 3. The grant provides seven full-time officers increased pay for their overtime and the money from these citations go into a general fund for the Town of Benton.
That money is then dispersed among a variety of different agencies, both local and at the state level.
Chief Charles Pilkinton thinks that the waves of Click It or Ticket patrols have made a difference over recent years.
“In the past, it was a really big issue, but from what I’ve seen in the past 2 years it’s more people wearing their seatbelt than not,” he said. “We have not written a seat belt citation yet and it’s not for lack of trying. People are wearing their seat belts, which is good. I believe they (the campaigns) do have an effect on drivers out here.”
The patrols are aimed at seatbelt laws but they allow the police the opportunity to scan traffic for other reasons.
“We’re watching for other violations as well — speeding, running stop signs, following too close, texting and driving,” Chief Pilkinton explained, “We’re being very diligent out here, trying to enforce all traffic laws at that time and getting everyone’s attention. Hopefully we’ll make them pay attention to the road and what they’re doing.”
The Benton police have issued several text and driving tickets over the initial days of the campaign.
“I had a traffic stop,” said Chief Pilkinton, “in which a truck went by a school bus that had its arms out and flashing lights and she (the driver) just told me that she didn’t see the bus. People can get hurt really quickly out here when they aren’t paying attention.”
The term “texting and driving” is actually broader than it might seem, according to Pilkinton.
“It’s pretty much any cell phone usage. Period,” he clarified. “You don’t know if they’re looking at their social media or email, if they’re texting, if they’re looking at the weather, you don’t know if they’re pulling something up on their GPS.”
Benton police officers are often not onduty during peak hours so due to the increase in their presence at these times, other crimes such as burglary or other theft are also less likely to occur.
“The goal,” Pilkinton said, “is to get people to pay attention to the streets and what’s around them and to slow down. Hopefully we’ll save a few lives.”