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Eau Claire sheriff reports 50 tickets written for seat belts last week

At least one Wisconsin sheriff says his officers are ticketing a lot more motorists for not wearing their seat belts.

Eau Claire County Sheriff Ron Cramer said his department issued 50 tickets last week, and that's up considerably.

It's been about a month since officers were allowed to stop vehicles just because somebody's not buckled up.

Before then, they had to find another violation.

But the governor and Legislature made so-called primary enforcement part of the new state budget, partially to get another $15 million in federal highway safety funds.

Chippewa County Sheriff Jim Kowalczyk says there's a side benefit in that a driver who's stopped for not buckling up can also be checked for alcohol and drugs.

Cramer says he's glad the seat belt fine is still just $10. Gov. Jim Doyle wanted to make it 25, but the Legislature's Joint Finance Committee said no.

Cramer said it would have looked too much like a money-making deal.

He calls the $10 penalty a "gentle nudge to remind you that we care about you as a person."