Herald-Whig View

National seat belt campaign makes annual effort to change habits, save lives

Posted: May. 18, 2017 12:10 pm

DRIVERS in Illinois and Missouri will be observed closely during the next couple of weeks as part of the national "Click It or Ticket" campaign.

Officers in both states will be issuing tickets to drivers and passengers who are not wearing seat belts or other safety devices.

Unlike some other traffic enforcement campaigns, this annual event is widely announced through news media at the behest of law enforcement agencies. They want people to know they're cracking down and want to see more people make seat belt use a regular habit.

"Seat belts save lives, and every vehicle occupant -- front seat and back, child and adult -- needs to remember to buckle up, every trip, every time," said Quincy Deputy Police Chief Doug VanderMaiden.

VanderMaiden said officers see firsthand the loss of life when people refuse to buckle up. He said the local enforcement campaign will continue through May 30.

Col. Sandra Karsten, Missouri State Highway Patrol superintendent, said the enforcement action in that state will continue through June 4.

"Safety belts decrease your risk of dying in a crash by 45 percent," Karsten said in a release.

Another set of statistics shows that 64 percent of the 943 people who died on Missouri roads in 2016 were not wearing seat belts. That's significantly higher than the 43 percent who were unrestrained in national statistics -- probably because seat belt usage in the Show-Me State is only 81 percent, compared to a national rate of 90 percent.

There are other ways to improve highway safety. Cellphone usage is a distraction and drivers who read or send texts greatly increase the likelihood of a serious crash.

Regular maintenance of vehicles, timely replacement of worn tires and wipers, and regular cleaning of windshields are all common-sense precautions.

Seat belt usage stands out from these as the easiest way to improve safety. It only takes seconds. It can help the driver avoid costly tickets. And, of course, it saves lives.