Law enforcement officers countywide will be stepping up their efforts to enforce the state’s seat belt requirement over the next two weeks as part of the nationwide Click It or Ticket campaign.
Starting today and continuing through June 1, local agencies will be watching to ensure that drivers are buckled up.
“If you are not wearing your seat belt, you will be ticketed,” Corinth police Lt. Jimmie Gregg said in a recent news release.
Click It or Ticket begins each year as summer approaches to encourage everyone — drivers and passengers alike — to buckle up. With Memorial Day weekend fast approaching, Gregg said officers want to ensure that everyone arrives at their destinations safe and sound.
Roadway fatalities are up nationwide for the first time in five years, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
In Texas, there were 943 fatalities and 5,383 serious injuries in 2013 resulting from crashes in which drivers or passengers were not wearing seat belts, according to the Texas Department of Transportation.
In Denton County, seven people have died from traffic accidents this year, although factors such as speed were considered more of a contributing factor in the fatalities, officials said.
TxDOT officials say that wearing a seat belt can increase a person’s chance of surviving a serious crash by 45 percent.
Police in Lewisville and Denton will be among those watching closely to enforce the law.
“It’s something we usually do and while it’s not an all-day thing for the full two weeks, we will have our traffic units out enforcing [the law],” said Lewisville police Capt. Jay Powell.
Police said they are hoping the randomly selected enforcement periods keep everyone on alert so they will always wear their seat belts.
Nearly nine out of 10 people asked to wear a seat belt will do so, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
“There are too many people dying on our roads and many of those deaths could have been prevented if people took the simple step of wearing their seat belt,” Assistant Chief Greg Wilkerson of the Corinth Police Department said in a prepared statement.
“Locally, we have seen several drivers who have been critically injured or worse, killed,” he said. “Many of these serious injuries and deaths could have been prevented if people had buckled up.”
This year’s campaign could result in more citations than ever before, according to TxDOT.
Officials said many drivers and passengers are still unaware of safety belt requirements enacted into law in 2009.
All passengers in the back seat must now be buckled up, and children younger than 8 must ride in a child safety seat or booster seat unless they are taller than 4 feet, 9 inches.
Fines for those who are not buckled up can go up to $200 per person, officials said.
MEGAN GRAY can be reached at 940-566-6885 or on Twitter at @MGrayNews.