Seat belt use saves lives: That's the message local, state and federal agencies are sending with a national campaign beginning next week.
As Memorial Day approaches and families plan summertime road trips, law enforcement officers are urging motorists to obey the law and buckle their seat belts. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's national Click It or Ticket high-visibility enforcement effort takes place May 20 to June 2.
"During the Click It or Ticket campaign, we'll be working with our fellow law enforcement officers across local and state lines to ensure the message gets out to drivers and passengers.
"We cannot overstate the importance of wearing a seat belt. It's the law, but it's more than that: By far, buckling up is the simplest thing you can do to limit injury or save your life during a crash. We see the results of not wearing a seat belt all the time. We see the loss of life. So often, it could have been prevented with the simple click of a seat belt," Texarkana, Ark., Police Department Sgt. Jeremy Gordon stated in a post on the department's Facebook page.
For this year's effort, NHTSA is asking all states to participate in a kickoff event called Border to Border, or B2B. Taking place May 20, B2B will coordinate seat belt enforcement and provide fact sheets for drivers at heavily traveled, highly visible state border checkpoints.
"As part of a national effort, officers will be out in force across the state to remind motorists that seat belt use is not optional. It is a mandatory, life-saving measure that must be taken seriously, every day and every night, without exception.
"It is our hope that the enhanced police presence, as well as heightened public awareness with paid advertising, will hammer this message home and protect our motorists as they begin their summer travel," Arkansas State Police Col. Bill Bryant stated in a news release.
According to NHTSA, in 2017 there were 10,076 unbuckled passenger vehicle occupants killed in crashes in the United States. That year, 55% of passenger vehicle occupants killed at night were not wearing their seat belts. That's why one focus of the Click It or Ticket campaign is nighttime enforcement. Participating law enforcement agencies will be taking a no-excuses approach to seat belt law enforcement, writing citations day and night.
"The Click It or Ticket campaign is important because it raises awareness about seat belt use during the time when seat belts are least used—at night.
"An increased number of law enforcement officers throughout Arkansas and the nation will actively be participating in the mobilization to ensure all motor vehicle occupants are buckled up day and night to reduce the risk of injury and death caused in traffic crashes," NHTSA Region 7 Administrator Susan DeCourcy stated.
In Arkansas in 2017, almost twice as many men were killed in crashes than women, with lower belt use rates, too, according to TAPD. Of the men killed in crashes in 2017, more than half were unrestrained. Among women killed in crashes, 39 percent were not buckled up.
"If the enforcement crackdown wakes people up to the dangers of unrestrained driving, we'll consider our mission to be a success.
"If you know a friend or a family member who does not buckle up when they drive, please ask them to consider changing their habits. Help us spread this lifesaving message before one more friend or family member is killed as a result of this senseless inaction. Seat belts save lives, and everyone—front seat and back, child and adult—needs to remember to buckle up—every trip, every time," Gordon said.
Arkansas state law requires all front seat passengers, not just drivers, to buckle up. Children younger than 15 must be properly secured in the vehicle. Children younger than 6 and who weigh less than 60 pounds must be restrained in a child passenger safety seat. If the driver has a restricted license, all passengers in the vehicle must be properly buckled up.
In Texas, drivers and all passengers must use seat belts. Children younger than 8 must be restrained in a child passenger safety seat unless they are taller than 4 feet 9 inches.
"As we gear up for the mobilization, I want Arkansas drivers to know that they can't hide from the state's seat belt laws simply because they don't travel on the major highways.
"The law is the law, whether there is one car on the road or five hundred in bumper-to-bumper traffic. And more importantly perhaps, a car crash can happen anywhere at any time. That's why it is critically important to buckle up before you drive, no matter where you are going or the route you take to get there," stated Crawford County Sheriff Ron Brown, president of the Arkansas Sheriff's Association.
For more information on Click It or Ticket, visit nhtsa.gov/ciot.