Initiative hopes to convince groups still sticking with not clicking
COLLEGE STATION — This year’s Texas Department of Public Safety ‘Click It or Ticket’ campaign is scheduled for May 20-June 2, which includes the Memorial Day weekend, said Bev Kellner, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service program specialist — passenger safety, College Station.
“AgriLife Extension is again actively supporting this important public safety initiative,” Kellner said. “We want to help bring attention to the campaign, as well as ‘inform and transform’ those people who are still not convinced of the importance of seat belt use.”
During the campaign, extra law enforcement authorities will be on the roads enforcing the seat belt and child restraint laws in an effort to save lives, she noted.
“This year marks the 45th anniversary of the enactment of legislation making it mandatory for passenger vehicles to have safety belts,” Kellner said. ”You’d think that after so many years of having seat belts standard in vehicles, buckling your seat belt before driving off would be second nature, but for many people it’s not.”
She added that Texas passed its first seat belt law in 1985.
“Over the years, seat belt laws in Texas and nationally have prevented millions of deaths and injuries. And while most motorists buckle up, some groups – especially pickup truck drivers and their passengers, teens and people who live in rural areas — are still not convinced,” Kellner said. “In fact, crash data from the Texas Department of Transportation shows there has been an 11 percent increase in traffic fatalities from 2011 to 2012.”
Wearing a seat belt is the single most important thing that drivers and passengers can do to help survive a crash, she said. Yet in Texas last year, 45 percent of those killed in crashes were reported as being unrestrained.
“According to a recent study conducted in 18 Texas cities by the Texas A&M Transportation Institute, only 78.4 percent of the state’s teens wear their seat belts,” Kellner said. “And in rural Texas, where most fatalities occur, seat belt use is also lower than average.”
Kellner said pickup truck drivers and their passengers are often under the false impression that their larger vehicle will protect them in a crash.
“Yet, pickup trucks are twice as likely to roll over than passenger cars and pickup crashes can be especially serious – even deadly – due to their tendency to roll over and for unbelted occupants to be thrown from the vehicle,” she said.
Teens are inexperienced drivers and are subject to distractions in the vehicle, Kellner added.
And while seat belts are lifesavers for young drivers and their passengers, they are not being consistently worn on every trip.
“The Click It or Ticket campaign has been successful in bringing Texas’s seat belt rate from 76.1 percent in 2002, when it started, to 94 percent today,” she said. “It is estimated the campaign can be credited with saving almost 3,700 lives and preventing more than 50,000 injuries in Texas.”
Since 2009, Texas law requires all vehicle occupants – front and back — to buckle up 100 percent of the time. And children younger than 8 years old, unless taller than 4’9”, must be in a child restraint. Fines for seat belt violations can range from $25 to $250.
Enforcement will increase this month, and drivers and passengers not wearing seat belts will face fines of up to $200, plus court costs, according to the Texas Department of Transportation.
“Motorists can save money and, more importantly, save lives by buckling up on every trip,” Kellner said.