'Click It Or Ticket' Kick Off

The Texas Department of Transportation launched its 11th Annual "Click It or Ticket" safety campaign Tuesday in Austin.

The Public Information Officer for the Texas Department of Transportation in Wichita Falls, Adele Lewis, told Newschannel 6 the seat belt safety awareness campaign gives Texans the chance to make sure they're wearing their seat belts and get in the habit of wearing it before enforcement begins May 21.

"You will see more police officers, troopers, and deputies on the road and what they're looking for, primarily, is for seat belt violations and along the way, they end up getting a few DUIs, as well," Adele Lewis said.

The enforcement period of the campaign kicks off May 21 and ends June 3 and includes the Memorial Day holiday. An increased number of law enforcement officers will be out on the roads during this time, specifically looking for drivers and passengers not wearing their seat belts or not properly buckling up their children.

When they pull over these drivers breaking the law, they'll ticket them anywhere from $25 to $250 (including court costs). The message behind the seat belt safety awareness campaign: "buckling up is important!" Seat belts can save lives. "Seat belts do save lives. We know that. We've known that for 30 or 40 years," Adele Lewis said.

The financial cost for drivers in violation doesn't matter. TxDOT will continue with their campaign because it's been steadily successful the past ten years, according to the Texas Transportation Institute. " Our seat belt compliance rate has increased. 93.7% of Texans are wearing their seat belts on a regular basis," said Lewis.

State transportation officials said that while the campaign has been successful, in 2011 alone, Lewis said, "We had 3,000 people killed in Texas. Three thousand needless deaths." Of those deaths, almost half reported were not wearing seat belts. The campaign is an incentive to obey the law and stay alive.

TxDOT officials fear that many drivers and passengers are still unaware of safety belt requirements that went into law in 2009. Department of Transportation officials wish to clarify that under Texas law, everyone riding in a vehicle must be secured by a seat belt; including adults. Therefore, if an adult is unbuckled in the back seat of a vehicle, law enforcement will ticket them. All passengers riding in the back seat must now have their seat belts on.

Further, in hopes of clarifying the seat belt law, the Texas Department of Transportation issued a press release highlighting a number of main misconceptions or misunderstood aspects of the law changes that went into effect in 2009. Within the press release, for parents: "Children younger than 8 years old have to ride in a child safety seat or booster seat unless they are taller than 4 feet 9 inches."

Due in part to the "Click It or Ticket" campaign over the past decade, Texas is ranked seventh in the nation for overall seat belt use. Experts at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimate that the steady increase in seat belt usage in Texas has resulted in 2,843 fewer traffic fatalities, 48,000 fewer serious injuries, and a savings to the state of more than $10 billion in associated costs.

May 15, 2012 - a kick off event will be held in Wichita Falls prior to the enforcement period.

For additional information about the campaign, visit http://www.texasclickitorticket.com/

Visit http://www.txdot.gov/ for general Texas Department of Transportation information and questions concerning the seat belt law.

Brittany Glas, Newschannel 6