SCOOBA — East Mississippi Community College’s Scooba campus hosted the launch Monday of area law enforcement agencies’ Click It or Ticket campaign, which runs from May 22 to June 4.
Participating law enforcement agencies included representatives from sheriff’s departments in Lauderdale, Kemper and Neshoba counties and officers from police departments in Marion, Meridian and Scooba. The EMCC Police Department was represented, as was the Mississippi Highway Patrol. Guest speakers were Tawni Basden with the Mississippi Youth Highway Safety Program and Mississippi House Rep. Michael Evans.
“On behalf of our president, Dr. Thomas Huebner, I want to welcome you to the Scooba campus of East Mississippi Community College,” EMCC Vice President of Student Life Mickey Stokes said. “We appreciate the opportunity to host this event today and thank you for allowing us to do that.”
The event included lunch and a meeting of members of Troop H, which consists of law enforcement agencies in Clarke, Jasper, Kemper, Lauderdale, Leake, Neshoba, Newton, Scott and Smith counties.
A press conference for local media took place outside the F.R. Young Student Union. Kemper County Sheriff James Moore was the moderator for the event to raise awareness of the importance of seat belt use.
“Unfortunately, there is a large group of people who don’t want to wear seatbelts,” Moore said. “We don’t want to write tickets. We want people to click-it. Seatbelts save lives.”
Meridian Police Department Lt. Rita Jack, who is the Troop H Law Enforcement Liaison coordinator, said officers will be on the lookout for motorists who are not wearing their seatbelts during the Click It or Ticket campaign.
Mississippi Highway Patrol Sgt. Andy West said there were 59 fatalities on state and federal highways in Troop H last year, compared to 40 fatalities in 2015. Roughly half of those killed last year were not wearing seatbelts, West said.
“You can’t help but wonder what the results would have been had they had been restrained,” West said.
All of the law enforcement officials said they will beef up patrols and look for those who are not buckled up during the campaign.
“We will be doing more checkpoints and saturation patrols in heavy traffic areas to ensure that everybody is wearing their seatbelts and driving safely so we don’t lose any more lives,” Neshoba County Sheriff’s Department Deputy Jessie Hamilton said.
Beginning July 1, Mississippi will require back-seat passengers to buckle up under the provisions of Senate Bill 2724, which Gov. Phil Bryant signed April 5. The driver could face a fine of $25 for every person in the vehicle not wearing a seatbelt.
“The new law is going to give you more tools in your toolbox to curtail instances where people are not wearing their seatbelts,” Evans told the law enforcement officers.
Evans, a former firefighter who spent 23 years with the city of Philadelphia Fire Department, said he has seen firsthand the dangers of not wearing a seatbelt.
“When you give people tickets for not wearing their seatbelts, explain to them that the tickets are really meant to save their lives,” Evans said.
Lauderdale County Sheriff Billy Sollie agreed.
“If you don’t wear your seat belt and you are involved in a motor vehicle accident, the likelihood of you surviving are greatly diminished,” Sollie said. “We beg you, please, to put your seatbelt on. Take that five seconds to click-it so we don’t have to give you a ticket.”