The Marshall County Sheriff's Office is increasing seatbelt enforcement during the week of Thanksgiving with more deputies on patrol.
This enhanced enforcement period, part of another wave of Iowa's special Traffic Enforcement Program (sTEP), began Monday and will continue through Sunday.
In addition to seatbelt violations, sheriff's office deputies, state police officers, state troopers and Department of Transportation officers will also pay close attention to impaired drivers and other moving violations during this enhanced enforcement period.
As of the start of November, more than 37 percent of Iowa motorists involved in this year's 299 fatalities were not wearing their seatbelts, according to the National Traffic Safety Bureau.
While a large majority of drivers wear seatbelts during the day, deputies want to stress wearing them at night when visibility is lowered, said Marshall County Sheriff Ted Kamatchus. One of sTEP's goals is to increase seatbelt use, especially in rural communities where it is often lacking.
"Because of the short drives, [drivers in rural communities] tend not to put on their safety belts," Kamatchus said. "They may be comfortable and aware, but the other person may not."
By increasing the public's awareness that deputies will be out ticketing drivers for these offenses, Kamatchus said he hopes they can increase seatbelt use over the holiday season when a heightened number of people are driving.
During the last sTEP wave in August and September, Iowa officers stopped more than 34,000 motorists across the state. The next sTEP wave is scheduled for March 14 to 17.
Kamatchus said drivers should turn on their headlights to draw attention to their vehicle - even during the day.
"Anything you can do to stand out," Kamatchus said. "The bottom line is if they can see you, they have a better potential chance of avoiding you."
Federal money from the National Traffic Safety Bureau pays overtime for deputies and other costs associated with the wave.