Illinois motorists who have been able to ignore the state's seat-belt law for 18 years face a new reality: Click it or ticket. Police are handing out tickets under a tougher seat-belt law that took effect July 3, 2003. State troopers and police departments around Illinois participated in a two-week national enforcement campaign that ended Aug. 31, surprising dozens of motorists who neglected to buckle up. Seat belts became mandatory for drivers and front passengers in 1985, but the law was the "secondary" type, meaning police could not stop motorists who were unbelted. Police could issue tickets only if a driver was stopped for other infractions. That changed July 3, when Illinois became the 20th state to adopt a "primary" law that lets police pull over motorists who are unbelted. The seat-belt law is not considered a moving violation in Illinois, so it cannot lead to a driver's license suspension. Motorists who received citations face $55 fines, plus court costs if they contest the tickets. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) says that 76 percent of Illinois motorists buckle up and that seat-belt use rises to an average of 83 percent in states with primary laws. NHTSA estimates that seat-belt use nationally reached a record 79 percent in June. However, 59 percent of car and light truck occupants killed last year were unbelted.

Originally posted on Fleet Financials