Westbrook police receive safety grant

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The Westbrook Police have recieved more than $7,500 in state funding to keep drivers safer behind the wheel and pedestrians safer in the crosswalks.

This week, the city council accepted a $1,678 donation through the Maine Bureau of Highway Safety for pedestrian safety and approved at first reading a $5,840 Click It or Ticket grant for seatbelt enforcement.

The pedestrian safety grant money will be used for crosswalk enforcement across the city between May and August. Downtown will be a particular focus because, according to¬†Westbrook Police Department Captain Steven Goldberg, that is where police “see the most issue with motorists not yielding to pedestrians in the crosswalk.”

The Maine Department of Transportation reports between 2013 and 2017, there were 27 pedestrian accidents in Westbrook, including 23 that resulted in injury and two that were fatal (both last year).

The Click It or Ticket grant, also provided by the Maine Bureau of Highway Safety, requires two readings because it is over $3,000. The grant will cover special enforcement between May 21 and June 3.

“We have seen an increase in the number of motorists in Westbrook wearing their seatbelts and we hope our efforts with this grant will help that trend continue,” Goldberg said.

Seatbelt use is up not just in Westbrook. According to the National Highway Safety Traffic Administration’s 2017 National Occupant Protection Use Survey, close to 90 percent of vehicle occupants use seat belts, a trend that has been increasing since 2000 when the figure was around 71 percent. According to the Maine Department of Transportation, seat belt use in Maine has increased from 59 percent in 2002 to 85.5 percent in 2015. In 2015, the National Highway Safety Traffic Administration reports that seat belts saved an estimated 13,941 lives.¬†Being caught without a seat belt carries with it a $50 to $250 fine.

The Westbrook Police Department has received two federal grants to help enforce seat belt safety around Memorial Day and pedestrian safety this spring and summer. (Staff photo by Michael Kelley)