Target Zero: Law enforcement seatbelt use over holiday weekend

Vancouver PD and Clark County Sheriff’s Office among those working emphasis patrols

Local law enforcement will be out in force this weekend with DUI enforcement patrols.

“Memorial Day Weekend brings a lot of people out to celebrate the holiday. Sometimes people like to drink alcohol or use drugs. That causes us to be at a more heightened awareness that people might be out there driving impaired,” said Sean Donaldson of the Vancouver Police Department.

Sean Donaldson of the Vancouver Police Department and his colleagues will be on DUI emphasis patrols during the holiday weekend. Photo by Paul Valencia
Sean Donaldson of the Vancouver Police Department and his colleagues will be on DUI emphasis patrols during the holiday weekend. Photo by Paul Valencia

In a perfect world, just having emphasis patrols throughout the region would be enough to stop anyone who is under the influence from getting behind the wheel.

“A lot of it is being highly visible,” Donaldson said. “We’re all going to be driving in a marked patrol car. We’re going to be visible.”

One might see extra patrols near the beaches or bars. 

“Hopefully we don’t have to catch any impaired drivers. It’s about deterring people from committing a DUI,” Donaldson said.

Other agencies that will be having emphasis patrols this week include: The Clark County Sheriff’s Office; Clark Regional Emergency Services Agency, and Washington State Patrol.

The end of May brings the holiday, and it also allows for law enforcement officials to once again emphasize the Click It or Ticket campaign from Target Zero. Donaldson also is a subject matter expert on seatbelt patrols.

“To actually not put on a seatbelt, it’s a conscious decision that somebody is making and they’re not being safe,” Donaldson said. “It’s terrible when you see someone not being restrained in a seatbelt because once they get in a crash, it’s all physics. When a car stops and you are not restrained, you continue moving and you hit other objects in the car. Those cause some serious and pretty bad injuries.”

As a police officer, he has responded to crashes and has seen the effects of a person who was not wearing a seatbelt. He also has been on the scene of horrific crashes but has seen people walk away uninjured because they were wearing seatbelts.

“They do work,” Donaldson said.

Target Zero is the name of a plan implemented by several state agencies with the goal of having zero traffic-related fatalities by 2030. Target Zero puts an emphasis on education about speed limits, seat belts, distracted driving, DUIs, and more.

Donaldson is also a part of the education process — not always just about enforcement. 

“It’s important for young drivers … to educate them. They’re aware of the laws. They went through driver’s ed. But sometimes they forget. Reminding them is a  great alternative to giving them a ticket.”
If it is a first-time offense, Donaldson prefers a warning rather than a citation.

“I like being out in the community. My job as a traffic enforcement officer is fantastic,” Donaldson said. “I get to meet tons of different people. Most of the stops I have are positive. A lot of times they end up with a warning. I don’t issue a ton of tickets. I might have some of the most stop numbers in the department but most of mine are warnings. I don’t issue tickets unless someone really needs one.”

Donaldson is in law enforcement because he loves helping others and his community. He grew up in Vancouver, graduating from Hudson’s Bay High School in 2009. 

He recalls a skills center internship with the major crimes unit of the sheriff’s office when he was in high school.

“I loved it. It was fantastic,” Donaldson said. “I liked the ever evolving cases. You come to  work and every day is different.”

After college, he was a police officer in Seattle for a little more than a year before deciding it “was time to come home.” He has been back in Vancouver since 2014.

“I love saving people,” Donaldson said. “ I enjoy being out there, being in the community, helping people out.”

Target Zero notes:

In Washington, there were 33 traffic fatalities over Memorial Day Weekend from 2017 to 2020. Four of those were from Clark County.

Target Zero asks drivers to drive sober 100 percent of the time. 

Plan ahead, as well. If you are going to be drinking, plan for a ride from a sober driver. 

Intervene, too. Stop someone who might be impaired from getting behind the wheel.

And buckle up, every time. The lack of restraint use is up 57 percent in serious and fatal injury crashes from 2019-21.

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