HOUSTON - In the shadow of a 200-foot long safety belt, the Texas Department of Transportation kicked off its 7th annual statewide Click It or Ticket campaign today with a stern reminder to Texas motorists: if you haven’t gotten into the habit of buckling up, it can cost you a fine of up to $200.
Thousands of state troopers, police officers and sheriff’s deputies will be on Texas streets and highways between May 19 and June 1, including the Memorial Day holiday weekend, issuing citations to drivers who aren’t buckled up and whose children aren’t properly restrained. This year, law enforcement will also pay extra attention to front-seat passengers, observed not wearing safety belts.
According to the latest research studies, fewer passengers than drivers routinely use safety belts. The worse offenders are riders in pickups. According to the Texas Transportation Institute, fewer than eight of every ten pickup passengers buckle up compared to 90 percent of riders in passenger vehicles.
“Since pickups are twice as likely as passenger vehicles to roll over in a fatal crash, we worry about the safety of people who don’t take the simple precaution of buckling up when they’re in a truck,” said Carlos Lopez, TxDOT’s Traffic Operations Director. “Wearing a safety belt reduces the risks of dying in a pickup rollover crash by as much as 80 percent.”
While safety belt use tops 90 percent in the state’s major metropolitan areas, motorists in smaller cities and rural parts of Texas aren’t keeping up with their big-city neighbors. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, three of every four rural drivers in Texas do not use a safety belt. Safety experts say for every one percent increase in safety belt use, 25 fewer Texans will be killed in traffic crashes and 586 will escape serious injury.
“The simple act of buckling up is the easiest, least expensive and most effective way to prevent traffic deaths and injuries,” said Lopez. “It also can keep you from getting a ticket.”