Extension Agent: Seat belt usage rate on rise in Texas
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By Sarah Womble
Texans have a lot to celebrate this month.
Since the Click It or Ticket campaign first began in 2002, more than 2,800 fatalities, 48,000 serious injuries and $10 billion in related costs were prevented by increased seat belt use in Texas.
The seat belt usage rate in Texas prior to the campaign start was 76.1 percent. According to the Texas Transportation Institute, in 2010 the usage rate had increased to almost 94 percent.
We've come a long way, but there's still more work to be done. Though traffic fatalities are down, motor vehicle crashes are still the leading cause of death for Texans.
In 2009, more than 3,000 Texans died in vehicle crashes, and nearly half of those killed were unbuckled.
Unfortunately, there are some groups who are still resistant to wearing their seat belt - young drivers, as well as pickup truck drivers and their passengers, have a lower usage rate.
Getting pickup truck drivers and passengers to buckle up is especially important because pickup trucks are twice as likely to roll over as passenger vehicles.
In fact, wearing your seat belt reduces the risk of fatal injury by 45 percent, and in pickups, that number increases to 60 percent.
The success of the Click It or Ticket campaign has been a combination of education and enforcement. Soon, you will see advertising and message boards proclaiming the beginning of this year's campaign. Thousands of officers will put in extra hours to increase enforcement of seat belt laws during the Click It or Ticket campaign period which runs through June 5 and includes Memorial Day weekend.
The officers' real mission is to save lives. For every single percentage point our usage rate goes up, many lives are saved and many serious injuries are prevented.
Remember, buckling up is not just for front seat passengers. Since 2009, the seat belt law in Texas requires all passengers - both front and back - to buckle up in every position where there is a seat belt.
The law also includes 12 and 15-passenger vans. For children, the law states that all children under age 8 unless taller than 4-feet, 9-inches need to be in a child safety seat system.
For best practice, keep children under 4-feet, 9-inches tall in a booster seat until the vehicle seat belt fits them properly.
Our goal this year is to get every Texan to always buckle up, on every trip, every time so we can celebrate more lives saved next year.
For more information, see www.texasclickitorticket.com.
Sarah Womble is a Victoria County extension agent-Family and Consumer Sciences.