Finnish police are taking part in a Europe-wide seatbelt enforcement campaign this week – while cracking down on a range of other offences including illegal residence in the country.
Police in 28 countries are conducting seatbelt checks throughout the week of 11-17 March as part of an operation coordinated by the European Traffic Police Network (TISPOL). Law enforcement officials in Finland are also keeping an extra-sharp eye out for motorists' compliance with other traffic rules such as the proper use of mobile phones and paying due attention to pedestrian crossings.
According to Inspector Heikki Kallio of the National Police Board, inattention to traffic is usually due to phone use. He notes that all too often seatbelts are not secured, particularly in built-up areas, in vans and in the back seats of cars.
At zebra crossings, police are tracking drivers' behaviour when children or elderly people are attempting to cross.
Infant car seats installed improperly
On Monday morning, officers were also checking the safe use of child safety seats. In the west-coast city of Pori, they found problems in a quarter of such cases . They were most often found in car seats used for children under the age of three, said Sami Kivilä of the Finnish Road Safety Council.
"They were all attached with seatbelts and they all had good seats. But the problem was that more than half were facing in the direction of travel, while the recommendation is that the child should be facing backwards. If there's an accident when the child's head weighs more proportionally than their body, then they can flop forward so it's extremely important to turn those seats around," he told Yle.
According to the Road Safety Council's website, "the safest way to transport a child is to seat them facing the rear as long as possible but at least until the child is three years old."
Residence permits under the microscope
During the week police are also checking whether foreigners have proper documentation to be in the country.
"In practice this means when the identity of a person who is a customer in a police operation is checked and the individual is found to be a foreigner, we at the same also check whether he or she has the right to be in the country," police inspector Ari Jokinen told the National Coalition Party daily Verkkouutiset.
Authorities may also carry out inspections in restaurants or at other targetted sites.
"Police surveillance operations may never be based solely on actual or assumed ethnic origin. Rather such actions must be based on tips or analytical data indicating illegal residence in the country," Jokinen said.