Target Zero: Encouraging everyone to wear seat belts

Ridgefield, Clark County, and state law enforcement officials preparing for Click It or Ticket Campaign

RIDGEFIELD — For the most part, it is about education first, then enforcement if needed.

Andy Marvitz and law enforcement officials across the state want you to be safe. They want you to be around for your families. 

They want you to wear your seat belt.

Andy Marvitz of the Ridgefield Police Department said he wants to emphasize safety. He is part of Target Zero’s emphasis on the use of seat belts. Photo by Paul Valencia
Andy Marvitz of the Ridgefield Police Department said he wants to emphasize safety. He is part of Target Zero’s emphasis on the use of seat belts. Photo by Paul Valencia

Target Zero, the Washington State Strategic Highway Safety Plan that has the goal of zero deaths and zero serious injuries on Washington roadways by 2030, is emphasizing the importance of seat belts this month.

In particular, ensuring young people are wearing seat belts.

According to Target Zero, Washington residents do use their seat belts at a high rate — 93 percent of us in 2020. However, of the 7 percent who do not, many of them are young drivers. In fact, drivers aged 16 to 25 have the lowest seat-belt use rate of all ages of drivers involved in fatal crashes.

Graphic courtesy Target Zero
Graphic courtesy Target Zero

Marvitz, a Ridgefield police officer, and his colleagues throughout the county, are helping Target Zero this month with an emphasis on educating the public regarding seat belts.

“I’ve been involved in the traffic safety task force,” he said, noting the emphasis on drivers with cell phones or other distractions, and, of course, seat-belt use. “I was drawn to it because traffic safety is something that is really important. When we have those emphasis, we have the ability to impact lives, change lives. We do a lot through education. And we do it through enforcement. There are times we need to do it with actual enforcement action. But a lot of it is merely about education and bringing up awareness.”

Marvitz, 32, grew up in the Hockinson area, and has been in law enforcement for more than eight years. He has seen great results from people wearing seat belts, and he has seen the effects of when seat belts were not used.

“I think people don’t really process and recognize the significance of what seat belts actually do,” Marvitz said.

Recently, he was called upon a scene when a young driver hit a retaining wall at around 60 mph.

“Girl walked out without a scratch,” Maritz said. “If she had not been wearing a seat belt, that would have been an entirely different story.”

Years ago, Marvitz was the one who had to give a notification to a family member of a driver who died. Marvitz knew the details of the crash. It was a roll-over, but not at a tremendous high rate of speed. The driver was ejected, though.

“Had they been wearing a seat belt, it would have been a very preventable death,” Marvitz said. “That one definitely stuck with me.”

In fact, he said he uses that as an example for anyone who claims that not wearing a seat belt is a victimless crime.

“You don’t care about yourself? That’s fine. I care about your safety,” Marvitz says. “Or I’m the officer who has to knock on your family’s door with the notification.”

In May, the month of Mother’s Day, Target Zero is asking moms of young drivers to educate their children on the importance of wearing a seat belt. 

Also, a “Click It or Ticket” campaign is set to begin May 18 throughout the state. It is an emphasis event.

Marvitz said looking for seat belt usage is a general act of patrolling for the Ridgefield department on an everyday basis. Still, with the campaign, expect to see some extra measures throughout all of Clark County, throughout the state.

There might be a plains-clothed officer standing on a street corner, to observe drivers stopped at a light, for example. The officer then can call ahead to an officer in a patrol vehicle, who will then make contact with the driver.

Not every stop results in a citation, though.

“I try to strive for the education route,” Marvitz said. “We’re not here to be jerks. We’re not here to ruin people’s days. We’re out here to educate and make sure people are safe.”

If, through that conversation, the officer feels the driver has received the message, then that is an opportunity for a teachable moment, Marvitz said, rather than an enforceable moment.

Either way, the message is clear: Seat belts save lives. And although 93 percent of Washington residents wear their seat belts, that still leaves 7 percent who could use a little more education, according to Target Zero.

Graphic courtesy Target Zero
Graphic courtesy Target Zero

Marvitz is a solid ambassador for Target Zero here in Clark County. He grew up here. He went to the Clark County Skills Center (now Cascadia Tech Academy) for his introduction into criminal justice. And he always wanted to work in a small community such as Ridgefield.

“I was really intrigued with serving as a profession,” said Marvitz, who is married and the father of a baby boy. 

He said he loves being able to help people every day.

Sometimes that means having a conversation about safety. He is a subject matter expert, after all, on the use of seat belts. 

Note: For more on Target Zero and this month’s campaign, go to:

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