COLLEGE STATION – Officials are pointing to a 10-year-old campaign which urges seat belt use – Click It or Ticket – as the reason for fewer traffic fatalities and injuries in the state since the program began.??

The program has saved more than 2,800 lives and led to 48,000 fewer serious injuries while lowering related costs by $10 billion, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Prior to the campaign, only about 76 percent of the people on Texas roads reported using seat belts in vehicles.

Last year, the Texas Transportation Institute reported, the usage rate reached almost 94 percent.??

This year’s campaign will be May 23-June 5, as thousands of the Texas law enforcement officers will work additional hours to check for seat belt use.??

“The officers’ real mission is to save lives,” said Bev Kellner, Texas AgriLife Extension Service passenger safety program manager. “For every percentage point our usage rate goes up, many lives are saved and many serious injuries are prevented.

“We’ve come a long way, but there’s still more work to be done,” Kellner said. “Though traffic fatalities are down, motor vehicle crashes are still the leading cause of death for Texans aged 44 and under.”??

Kellner said that in 2009, more than 3,000 Texans died in vehicle crashes and nearly half of those killed were unbuckled.?

“Unfortunately, there are some groups that are still resistant to wearing their seat belt: young drivers, especially young men, as well as pickup truck drivers and their passengers have a lower usage rate,” she said. “Getting pickup truck drivers and passengers to buckle up is especially important because pickup trucks are twice as likely to roll 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.” According to the Texas Department of Transportation, in 2010 half of pickup truck drivers killed in traffic crashes were not buckled up.??

Kellner said the Click It or Ticket campaign combines education and enforcement to achieve compliance with seat belt use. She noted that buckling up is not just for passengers in the front seat.

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, experts recommend, 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,” Kellner said.

For more information, see http://www.texasclickitorticket.com/.