SAN JOSE, Calif. (KTVU) - Police in San Jose are deploying additional officers to specifically target drivers and passengers who aren't wearing a seat belt. The crackdown started Tuesday evening.
Police said it's a problem rampant throughout the city. The focus Tuesday was around Valley Fair Mall and Santana Row where there's a high volume of traffic.
At the intersection of Stevens Creek and Winchester in San Jose, it didn't take long in their special enforcement operation for motorcycle officers to find someone not buckled up.
“I would probably figure maybe one out of 30 cars that are not wearing their seat belts,” said San Jose Police Officer Victor Rodriguez.
In this case, the driver who didn't want to talk to us, told police he pulled out of the shopping center parking lot and forgot to put on his seat belt.
“When he saw me he started slowly slipping his seat belt on,” said Officer Rodriguez. “I told him I saw him without the seat belt on. When he saw me I saw him putting it on he said yes you caught me.”
These officers have heard every excuse under the sun.
“They were about to put it on,” said Sgt. Michael Trudeau of San Jose Police. “They had it on or took it off or they forgot or they were almost where they were going to be but took it off.”
The crackdown is part of the annual Click It or Ticket campaign funded by a federal grant. It runs concurrent with the busy memorial day travel season yet it couldn't be more timely.
Last week in Fremont, three people including two children, were killed in a crash on Interstate 880 ejected from their car not wearing their seat belts. Police arrested a 21-year-old driver in another car for being under the influence of marijuana.
“That was a horrible tragedy,” said Sgt. Trudaeau. “I can only imagine that some of the people ejected from that vehicle likely would not have been if they were properly restrained from the vehicle.”
In 2016, four people in San Jose were killed because they didn't wear a seat belt. That same year nine people died in Santa Clara County. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, nearly half of riders killed in car crashes were unbelted and at night, that number rose to 56 percent. New this year, the focus is at night from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m.
One driver was mistakenly pulled over. Police believed the passenger wasn’t wearing a seat belt. The officer gave him the benefit of the doubt. The passenger didn't mind, knowing it's all in an effort to keep the roads safe.
The price for not wearing a seat belt a $162 ticket, likely more given administrative fees. However, police said that’s nothing compared to harsher consequences including the potential loss of life.