Benalla police operation targets seatbelt usage

By Benalla Ensign

An unrestrained child, allegedly sitting in the front passenger seat of a vehicle, was one of a range of offences detected during a targeted seatbelt operation in Benalla this week.

Benalla Highway Patrol officers took to the roads on February 10 and 11 as part of Operation Lapsash, which focused on ensuring motorists and their passengers buckled up before taking off.

It comes as seven deaths on Victoria’s roads this year have been attributed to people not wearing seatbelts.

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While the two-day operation saw a high level of compliance, police said the message still was not getting through to some.

Alarmingly, police spotted one driver allegedly travelling with an unrestrained child in the front passenger seat.

He initially told police the eight-year-old child, who was allegedly seen with his head out the window, had the belt tucked under his arm.

The 31-year-old man from Benalla received a penalty notice for $372 for having a passenger under the age of 16 unrestrained, along with three demerit points.

One utility driver was also nabbed on Mansfield Rd after police observed him allegedly driving unbuckled.

After being intercepted by police, the 37-year-Kyabram man admitted he should have known better after receiving three prior fines for failing to wear a seatbelt.

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He was issued a further penalty notice for $330 and three demerit points.

Eastern Region Road Policing Inspector Stephen Cooper said despite these concerning incidents police had come across, they were pleased overall.

“Technology plays some part in the positive results, as we know newer cars are fitted with alarms that will sound until the seatbelt is in place,” Insp Cooper said.

“But we continue to be amazed by the fact there are still people out there who fail to buckle themselves up – or worse, their children – before driving.

“It’s the easiest safety measure you can take before driving, and it’s essentially your life jacket on the road.”

While most motorists did the right thing when it came to seatbelts, mobile phone distractions made up half of all offences detected during the operation.

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“Our officers disappointingly nabbed nine people using their mobile phones while driving – that’s nine people who have consciously put themselves and others at unnecessary risk,” Insp Cooper said.

“Just because we’re targeting seatbelt offences doesn’t mean you’ll get away with other poor driver behaviour and we’ll continue enforcing until that message sinks in.”

Those detected using mobile phones were issued with fines of $496 and four demerit points.

Operation Lapsash also detected one unregistered driver, five speeding offences and one drug driver.

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