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Motorists urged to buckle up

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Drivers traveling this Fourth of July holiday are advised that if they don't click it, they will get a ticket.

"When it comes to seat-belt enforcement, no more Mr. Nice Guy," said Lt. Chris Kramer of the Utah Highway Patrol. "We have a little saying here: If you don't click it, you get a ticket."

Warnings have been given since May, when the changes in seat-belt laws were first implemented. Police began issuing citations on Saturday under the new guidelines.

More importantly, though, is the safety that seat belts have been proven time and time again to provide, Kramer said.

"Seat belts save lives," he said. "They save injuries from happening. Odds are (drivers) will survive if they're wearing them."

An estimated 341,000 Utahns will travel at least 100 miles from home this weekend and through the Tuesday holiday — a 3 percent jump from last year, according to a recent AAA survey. In fact, with an expected 37.5 million Americans traveling that distance nationwide, this is the second busiest Fourth of July period for travel since 1986, according to AAA's Rolayne Fairclough.

"Even with the high gasoline prices (averaging at $1.52 in Utah, 27 cents higher than last year) our travel tour counselors are busy as they can be," Fairclough said.

The I-15 Reconstruction Team will not close the freeway through July 5, when regular construction schedules will resume. However, the Utah Department of Transportation expects the vicinity of I-80/I-215 East will be congested and recommends motorists use State Street, 700 East, 1300 East, I-15 and 2100 South as alternate routes.

The Salt Lake County Chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving also started its annual National Sobriety Checkpoint Week in hopes of preventing as much alcohol-impaired driving as possible. Law enforcement agencies throughout Utah are increasing sobriety checkpoints and roving patrols through July 5.

Typically, the Fourth of July holiday weekend is the second most dangerous one for travel next to Thanksgiving, MADD's Mary Phillips said.

"When you do enforcement and don't tell anybody about it, you don't get any effect. When you do tell them about it and they know it's going to happen, you're going to still tick off the people who drive impaired, but it will have a preventative effect," Phillips said.

Drivers also are advised to get proper amounts of rest; fatigue is a factor in more than half of the accidents that occur over the holidays, Kramer said.

E-mail: dmoody@desnews.com