Seat belt infractions may cost Battle Ground man $1,240

Ten of the 17 people in vehicle were unbuckled children

By Patty Hastings, Columbian breaking news reporter

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A Battle Ground man received 10 tickets totaling $1,240 Sunday afternoon for packing his nine-seat Suburban with 17 people, nine of whom were children not wearing seat belts.

The 37-year-old driver said he was en route to Rocky’s Pizza, 1901 W. Main St., when a Washington State Patrol trooper stopped him on Highway 502 in Dollars Corner. The trooper noticed the driver wasn’t wearing his seat belt and that the unbuckled passengers were all children, said Trooper Will Finn, spokesman for the patrol.

The vehicle, a 2007 Chevrolet Suburban, legally carries nine people. A woman sat in the front passenger’s seat with a child next to her — both buckled — and fourteen kids were packed into the remaining six seats.

Had the vehicle rolled or been involved in a collision, the children could have moved about the cabin and been hurt, Finn said. Troopers occasionally run into motorists carrying an extra passenger, but eight extra people?

“That’s a lot,” Finn said. “The trooper averted a potential tragedy.”