Crossroads-area officials launch annual Click it or Ticket campaign

Jessica Priest By Jessica Priest

May 21, 2014 at 12:21 a.m.

In the 1970s, Department of Public Safety Trooper Gerald Bryant responded to a crash on U.S. Highway 77 south of 7-Eleven, formerly known as Chubby's.

There, he found a woman without her seat belt wedged between the seat and the dashboard.

When the fire department used the Jaws of Life to extract her, they found a 2-year-old girl, too.

"I can still close my eyes and see that girl," Bryant said after a Wednesday morning news conference in front of the Victoria County courthouse.

Now in its 13th year, the Texas Department of Transportation's Click it or Ticket campaign is more important than ever, as new drivers are behind the wheel, and the state grows every year, said Becky Ozuna, Texas Department of Transportation spokeswoman.

"When the campaign began in 2002, 76 percent of Texans were using their seat belts. Now, it's 90 percent, so it's working," she said.

Police Sgt. Chris Guerra said from now until June 1, the Victoria Police Department will have zero tolerance for people driving without wearing a seat belt.

Adults - the driver and passengers - must buckle up, and children under the age of 8 must be in a child safety booster seat unless they are taller than 4 feet, 9 inches.

There could be a $200 fine for not doing so.

Guerra said it's easy for officers to spot when someone is not wearing their seat belt or trying to cover it up.

"We're trained to be multitaskers. We have to constantly be aware of our surroundings because our lives and the lives of others depend on it," he said.

About eight years ago, he responded to a crash where someone was not wearing their seat belt.

The driver fell asleep behind the wheel and rolled into a ditch late at night. The driver suffered severe head trauma, and Guerra thought the person was dead.

"But then, I heard a gasp," he said.

That person is alive now but has a traumatic brain injury and has lost an eye, he said.

"It really shouldn't take the threat of a ticket to buckle up," Guerra said.

Buckling up increases one's chances of surviving a crash by 45 percent, Ozuna said.

In pickups, that number jumps to 66 percent, Guerra said.

In 2013, there were 13 fatal wrecks in Victoria County. In two of those wrecks, people were not wearing seat belts, said Patricia "Pat" M. Eifert, TxDOT's traffic safety specialist for the Yoakum district.

Eifert was reading from a prepared statement by County Judge Don Pozzi, who had a previous commitment.



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