May 20, 2004

Sheriff’s Department Says ‘Click It or Ticket’

Teenagers and young adults are going to be surrounded with the strong message, “Click It or Ticket; If you won’t buckle up to save your life, then buckle up to save yourself a ticket.” The Scotland County Sheriff’s Department is joining more than 13,000 law enforcement agencies in a nationwide crack down on seat belt law violators.

The message to teens and young adults will be seen and heard in television and radio ads, across college campuses, over public high school public address systems, and through enforcement in locations where young people congregate – such as schools and sporting events.

The two-week enforcement wave, which runs from May 24 through June 6, will be supported by more than $30 million in Congressionally-funded national and state advertising. It is based on a proven public health model to increase belt use called “high visibility enforcement.” Last year, the national Click It or Ticket push, with paid advertising, increased seat belt use by four percentage points – to 79 percent, the highest rate ever recorded.

“The only proven way to get significant increases in belt use among young people and ultimately save lives, is through high visibility enforcement, including targeted and intense advertising to alert people to the enforcement,” said Scotland County Sheriff’s Deputy Bryan Whitney. “Teens and young adults are killed at far higher rates in crashes because they are caught in a lethal intersection of inexperience, risk taking and low safety belt use. These tragedies are predictable and therefore preventable, using proven techniques like high visibility enforcement mobilizations.”

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 4,530 teens ages 16-19, died and some 320,000 more were seriously injured in traffic crashes in 2002. And while young drivers ages 15-20 account for 6.6 percent of licensed drivers (12.6 million), they represented 14 percent of all drivers involved in fatal crashes and 16 percent (1,862,000) of police reported crashes in 2001.

Teen seat belt use in states with strong belt laws is consistently and substantially higher, presenting compelling evidence of the need to enact primary laws throughout the United States, according to a new analysis of government fatality data.

The analysis was based on data from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS), the NHTSA database that contains information on virtually all fatal crashes on public roads in the U.S. FARS data are deemed very precise because belt use at the time of a fatality is determined and recorded.

The data showed that teenage drivers in states with a secondary seat belt law were far less likely to be buckled up in fatal crashes. Forty-nine percent of fatally injured teenage drivers were buckled up in crashes occurring in primary law states, compared to 30 percent in secondary law states. This underscores the need for both the enactment of primary laws and their continued strict enforcement.

“While national seat belt use stands at 79 percent, we know the remaining 21 percent who don’t wear their seat belts are disproportionately teens and young men ages 18-34. Safety belt use for teens and young adults ages 16-24 is more like 69 percent and continues to lag behind the rest of the population,” said Whitney.

It’s important to note that this is a daytime belt use number. We know that nighttime belt use is much lower among teens and young adults.

During the national Click It or Ticket Mobilization, officers will intensify enforcement of safety belt laws and child passenger safety laws in the community. Drivers failing to restrain themselves and their child passengers will be ticketed according to the law.

“Enforcement gets people to buckle up – seat belt use in states that conduct high visibility enforcement is 10 to 15 percentage points higher than in states that simply conduct public education,” said Whitney. “If every state conducted high visibility enforcement, we would save 5,000 to 7,000 lives each year.”

High visibility enforcement relies on periods of intense enforcement of seat belt laws coupled with aggressive advertising and media outreach to let people know.

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