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State troopers plan week-long crackdown

"Here's a hint: since State Patrol troopers decided to kick off in a week the 22nd annual Three Flags Enforcement Blitz, a pop quiz of sorts is barreling down the pike for Kitsap County drivers. Beginning Sept. 29, troopers plan to step up their usual patrols in all areas of Kitsap County in marked and unmarked cars, and will do so through Oct. 8, said Glenn Tyrrell, a state trooper and public information officer.To date, officials haven't crafted a final enforcement schedule with times and places, but Tyrrell said to expect enforcement from the air as well as by road.The mammoth effort, he said, was dubbed Three Flags because troopers from Washington, Oregon and British Columbia are involved with it. Considered highly successful in the past, the idea is to check up on the ability of local drivers to navigate their vehicles safely and within designated speed limits, as well as educate folks about the importance of seatbelt and child-restraint use. We don't want to instill hysteria, Tyrrell said, emphasizing patrols will continue as usual for the most part, and that troopers aren't going to wait at the ready for a driver to mess up.We'll just keep a special eye out for speeders and aggressive drivers, he said. We'd also like to make sure kids under the age of 10 are wearing seatbelts. Of course, the question is, how do we know if a kid is under 10, but we usually err on the conservative side.Troopers plan to focus on high-risk drivers who tend not to use seatbelts, such as young drivers, speeders, alcohol-impaired drivers and drivers in rural areas.But most of all, troopers want to educate citizens about the importance and practicality of using seatbelts, and some of the basic, direct consequences of not using them.Besides understanding you risk being in a nasty accident if you don't wear a seatbelt, it could be instructive to know what civil penalties can be incurred.Many might be unaware that troopers can pull over drivers if a person under the age of 10 isn't wearing a seatbelt in that vehicle, even if that driver isn't speeding or otherwise breaking the law.That's a primary offense, Tyrrell said. So we can pull over drivers just for that reason alone. However, if an adult isn't wearing a seatbelt, then by law it's considered a secondary offense and a driver can't be pulled over just for that. But drivers can be pulled over if they're speeding, and then reprimanded if they're not wearing a seatbelt.The bottom line is, if troopers catch someone not wearing a seatbelt under any circumstance, that means a $71 ticket, Tyrrell said.Overall, troopers don't expect too much of a problem with drivers and seatbelt use, he said, because compliance in Kitsap County is usually right around 84 percent.Troopers plan to test compliance at designated patrol check points before the blitz, and again after the 10-day blitz.Tyrrell said that, in the past, post-blitz checks usually show an increase in compliance of about two points. Statistically, with an error margin of three points, the change means little, he said.Also included in the blitz will be several public education forums, to be announced at a later date. "

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