‘Blast’ targets DWI, seatbelts; Statewide summer effort seeks to improve safety

Law enforcement officers throughout New Mexico will be watching the roads carefully in the next few months as the state begins its “Summer Safety Blast,” a season-long initiative focusing on decreasing traffic deaths by enforcing DWI and seatbelt laws.

The safety blast includes State Police’s new “zero-tolerance” policy on unrestrained drivers and passengers, including children not properly restrained in a child safety seat. The initiative also includes the national Click It Or Ticket seatbelt campaign and New Mexico’s 100 Days of Summer D.W.I. crackdown.

“We believe this is a great plan and by increasing awareness about not driving drunk and buckling up, we can save lives,” Gov. Susana Martinez said. “By combining these three initiatives, our chances of stopping or preventing dangerous driving behavior are vastly increased. This is an important message for people to understand: If you drive drunk, you will be caught. And if you don’t buckle up your kids, you will pay a fine.”

Since the beginning of the year, 78 people have died in traffic accidents on New Mexico roads. Forty-five percent of those crashes were alcohol-related while at least 14 of those crash victims weren’t wearing a seatbelt.

As part of the Summer Safety Blast, law enforcement officers will conduct saturation patrols looking for anyone not wearing a seatbelt, as well as youngsters not properly restrained in a child safety seat. State Police’s new “zero-tolerance” seatbelt policy means no warnings will be given. Anyone who breaks the law will be cited.

“Fastening your seat belt and making sure your kids are properly buckled up is such an easy thing to do, and it’s the best way to protect yourself and your family in the event of a crash,” said State Police Chief Robert Shilling.

Officers will also be out in force looking to stop drunk drivers. This includes an increased number of DWI checkpoints, as well as saturation patrols.