By Patrick Winderl/Havre Daily Newsfirstname.lastname@example.org
"Click it or ticket."
That's the message the Rocky Boy Police Department will try to convey during a two-week saturated patrol that begins today, said Rocky Boy Police Chief Arthur "Ozzie" Windy Boy.
Officers will conduct more traffic stops and be stricter in enforcing seat belt and other traffic laws during the heightened patrol, he said.
"Many times, police will give people a warning," he said. "Now, we're not going to make any exceptions. If you break a traffic law, you will be cited."
If the weather allows, Rocky Boy police will also set up a DUI checkpoint.
The saturated patrol is part of a national effort to increase traffic safety. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is sponsoring the event, which lasts through Nov. 30. During the event, law enforcement across the country will focus on traffic safety education and enforcement.
Other particpating agencies include the Havre Police Department, the Hill County Sheriff's Office and the Montana Highway Patrol.
'"I have instructed my people to be on the lookout," said Hill County Sheriff Greg Szudera. "My main conern is the safety of the public. It's just like the motto says. You either click it or get a ticket. I'm going to do what the law says and enforce it."
Enforcing the seat belt laws and citing violators may encourage some people to buckle up, Windy Boy said.
"We want the public to be aware that this is coming down," he said. "It shouldn't be a surprise. Someone, somewhere will take it in a positive way, but there will be those who take it as a negative thing. It comes down to their expectations."
The saturated patrol is one part of a plan to increase traffic safety on the reservation, Windy Boy said. The tribal council is also considering revamping the tribe's traffic codes, he added.
The information gathered from the saturated patrol will be sent to NHTSA, where it will be included in national traffic safety statistics, Windy Boy said.
According to NHTSA, the number of people who wear seat belts has increased by 4 percent from last year.
"They estimate thousands of lives will be saved as a result of this increase," Windy Boy said. "This could not have been accomplished without the participation of law enforcement in communities across the country."
The saturated patrol in Rocky Boy represents the efforts of one agency in the region to increase safety on the roadways. A high-intensity educational campaign to encourage seat belt use will also get under way today, according to a press release from the Montana Highway Patrol.
The campaign is called Operation ABC or America Buckles up Children. Through television and radio ads, and public address systems in high schools, young people will be asked to wear seat belts when traveling in vehicles, the release said. The message will be backed up with strong traffic enforcement, it said.
"If you won't buckle up to save your life, then buckle up to save yourself a ticket," the release said.