Warwick Police Chief Col. Stephen McCartney can’t understand it, nor does Sgt. Eric Falcofsky.
The department joined in an extensive statewide campaign that they would be especially vigilant during the Thanksgiving holiday weekend in the enforcement of the state’s seat belt law. Yet, officers had no difficulty in finding lots of people who failed to heed the warning and blatantly drove by police without their belts fastened.
“Some people said they just got into the car, that they were just going down the street, that I’m claustrophobic,” Falcofsky said of some of the excuses he heard when he made stops. During the Nov. 20 to 26 period the department issued 117 seat belt violations. Thirty-four of those were issued between 7 a.m. and 3 p.m. on Black Friday.
Referring to talk show callers, McCartney said he’s heard the argument that government shouldn’t infringe on people’s rights and that they should be free to choose whether to wear a seat belt or not.
“If they could see what I’ve seen, I think they might change their minds,” the chief said of the injuries suffered by motorists who failed to buckle up.
As for Black Friday, the chief said the crowds were orderly and, with the exception of one arrest, things ran smoothly. The department was prepared for a significant influx of shoppers and travelers over the holiday, which Major Raymond Gallucci forecast at close to 250,000.
Falcofsky said Route 2 traffic kept moving on Black Friday. He suggested the economy, Internet sales and even the synchronization of traffic lights may have had something to do with it.
The click it or ticket campaign was paid for with an Operation Blue Rip Tide grant. The program is targeted at driving under the influence infractions.
As a result of seat belt violations, Falcofsky said the department made three criminal arrests for driving without a license or on a suspended license. He said there was one DUI arrest on Black Friday at 3:24 p.m. near Hoxsie Four Corners.
Violation of the seat belt law carries an $85 fine.