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Click It or Ticket Campaign

Friday, May 18, 2007

Lafayette area law agencies announce “Click It or Ticket" seat belt campaign

LAFAYETTE — Officials of Lafayette area law enforcement agencies, State Police and the Louisiana Highway Safety Commission announced today their participation in the 2007 “Click It or Ticket" campaign aimed at saving lives by getting more motorists to buckle up. The May 21-June 3 campaign features increased enforcement and hard-hitting television commercials.

“We would like nothing more than to be able to announce at the conclusion of this campaign that we didn't have to issue a single ticket because every motorist that we saw was buckled up," said Lafayette Parish Sheriff Mike Neustrom. “The bottom line goal of Click It or Ticket is to save lives, not to write tickets. However, we know that strict enforcement is the most effective way to convince a certain segment of the population to buckle up."

Lafayette Police Chief Jim Craft said high-visibility enforcement is a critical element in convincing motorists to obey traffic laws.

"Education and enforcement are two key factors in convincing motorists to obey traffic laws," Craft said. “The Click It or Ticket campaign combines these two factors in a nationally tested program that has shown positive results. Buckling your seat belt only takes a few seconds. The consequences of not buckling can be devastating."

Officials of the Louisiana Highway Safety Commission, which is funding the campaign, anticipate that Click It or Ticket will help reverse last year's decline in safety belt use in Louisiana. Louisiana motorists were bucking up in steadily increasing numbers until 2006, when seat belt usage slipped to 74.8 percent—a decrease of almost three percentage points from 2005.

The Lafayette region was the only region in Louisiana that did not register a decline in safety belt use last year. Seat belt use in the Lafayette region held steady at 78 percent in 2006.

“The declines that we experienced in the other seven regions of the state last year reinforced what we already knew: that strict enforcement and strong messages in the media are effective strategies for getting motorists to buckle up," said Col. James E. Champagne, executive director of the Louisiana Highway Safety Commission. “The New Orleans and Lake Charles areas—both hit by devastating hurricanes in 2005—had the steepest declines in seat belt use last year."

Champagne explained that the crises created by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita left police and sheriff's' department in those areas with less time and manpower to enforce the seat belt law. Statistics show that enforcement of the seat belt law by police and deputies in the hurricane-impacted areas declined by over 30 percent between 2005 and 2006.

Louisiana's safety belt use rate of 74.8 percent is more than six percentage points below the national rate of 81 percent. Safety officials estimate that eight lives are saved and 400 fewer injuries occur for every 1 percent increase in safety belt use in Louisiana.

“Just improving our usage rate to the national level would each year save 48 lives and avoid 2,400 injuries in Louisiana," Champagne said. “Riding in an automobile or truck is one of the riskiest activities that the average person does on a daily basis. Buckling up greatly improves the odds that you'll survive a crash."

During the May 21 through June 3 Click It or Ticket campaign, 44 municipal police departments, sheriff's offices and State Police troops will work extra patrols and conduct check points dedicated to safety belt enforcement. The LHSC has provided grants to participating law enforcement agencies that will pay for more than 2,000 hours of overtime throughout the year.

The television advertising portion of Click It or Ticket features hard-hitting 30-second spots that show law enforcement officers warning motorists that the safety belt law will be strictly enforced. One of the spots, called “Heaven Can Wait," features a family in a crash and demonstrates how a decision not to buckle up can impact the survivors.

The Louisiana enforcement mobilization is part of the nationwide Click It or Ticket campaign coordinated nationally by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Safety belts reduce the risk of fatal injury to passenger car occupants by 45 percent and the risk of moderate-to-critical injury by 50 percent. Sixty percent of the people killed in vehicle crashes in Louisiana in 2005 were not buckled up. Failure to wear a safety belt contributes to more fatalities than any other single traffic-related behavior—even drunken driving.

Louisiana law requires that drivers and front-seat occupants wear safety belts and that children under the age of 13 wear a safety belt and/or be restrained by an appropriate child safety seat regardless of seating positions. Law enforcement officers wrote more than 35,000 safety belt violation tickets during the 2006 Click It or Ticket campaign.

Louisiana has a “primary enforcement" law for safety belts, meaning that officers can stop and ticket a driver that they spot not complying with the law.

Lt. Craig Stansbury
Public Information Officer
Lafayette Parish Sheriff's Office