The Rockland Police Department announced Nov. 12 that it would undertake another effort to enforce seat belt laws.

And the department began that effort Monday, Nov. 15 by issuing tickets to seven people for not wearing seat belts.

Last year, Rockland police issued 131 tickets in the two weeks around Thanksgiving for motorists not wearing seat belts.

The fine for a first-time offense of the seat belt law is $70. A second offense is $160.

The current state seat belt law took effect April 1, 2008. The original seat belt law approved a few years earlier only allowed police to issue a ticket if the motorist was stopped for a different reason. The current law allows police to stop a motorist solely for not wearing a seat belt.

The law, however, prohibits searches of vehicles if drivers are being stopped only for a seat-belt violation.

Rockland is among hundreds of local law enforcement agencies across the country renewing enforcement in a lead up to Thanksgiving 2010.

Rockland Police Chief Bruce Boucher noted in a news release that in 2008, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 1,120 people were killed in car crashes during the Thanksgiving travel season. Of those, more than 50 percent were not wearing their seat belts.

Along with nighttime motorists, men — particularly young men — are among those less likely to buckle up. In 2006, 73 percent of male passenger vehicle occupants between the ages of 18 and 34 who were killed in crashes were not wearing seat belts. Sixty-four percent of teenagers killed in fatal crashes during 2006 were not wearing seat belts.

“Many of us overindulge in holiday goodies and loosen our belts a little after dinner. Remember, there is nothing that should keep you from tightening your seat belt when you get in a motor vehicle,” Boucher said in the news release.

“Regular seat belt use is the single most effective way to protect people and reduce motor vehicle crash fatalities,” said Chief Boucher. “Wearing your seat belt is easy and it costs you nothing. Not wearing it might cost you a ticket, or worse — your life. I urge everyone to please be safe and buckle up day and night.”