State steps up efforts on seat belt saftey

HARLINGN — First of all, everyone should wear a seat belt. It’s the law.

Second of all, it saves lives.

Just last week, the state stepped up enforcement efforts and actively ticketed both drivers and passengers who were not buckled up.

The Texas Department of Transportation’s “Click It or Ticket” campaign ran from May 23 through June 5 across the state.

Everyone inside a vehicle, both the front and back seats, needs to buckle up, police said.

TxDOT reported that wearing a seat belt increases the chances of surviving a crash by 45 percent.

During the enforcement campaign, the Harlingen Police Department issued 80 seat belt violation citations and 45 other related violation citations.

The San Benito Police Department issued more than 100.

If the deadly consequences aren’t enough to motivate seat belt use, fines and court costs can total up to $200, police said.

John Barton, TxDOT deputy executive director, said there are many Texans who will never get over the loss of a family member or friend who was not wearing a seat belt in a fatal crash.

“It’s really simple. Seat belts save lives. Every single individual in a vehicle needs to be buckled up,” Barton said.

In Texas, the law requires everyone in a vehicle to be buckled up, including back seat passengers.

“We’re going to make sure everyone is safely belted,” said Trooper Johnny Hernandez.

Hernandez said between Hidalgo and Cameron counties, 3,500 tickets for seat belt violations were handed out last year.

According to him, that’s too many.

“This has already been a law that has been in effect for a long time,” Hernandez said. “It’s a law and everybody has to comply with it because it’s going to save lives.”

Last year, 2,369 motor vehicle traffic crashes occurred in Texas in which unrestrained occupants sustained fatal or serious injuries.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that since its inception, the campaign in Texas has resulted in 4,319 fewer traffic fatalities while preventing 72,926 serious injuries and saving more than $16.7 billion in related costs.

According to information published on the TxDOT website, when the program began in 2002 only three out of every four Texans used their seat belt.

TxDOT officials note that some people may not be using seat belts like they should.

Studies show that men use seat belts less often than women, many teens and young adults are not wearing their seat belts, passengers are less likely to buckle up than drivers and pickup drivers are less likely to buckle up than other drivers, TxDOT stated.

Buckling up saves lives

These facts will drive home the importance of everyone buckling up at all times, according to the Texas Department of Transportation.

Unbelted back seat passengers can become projectiles in a car crash. They can be tossed around inside the vehicle and can even injure or kill those in the front seat.

H Riders in the back seat who use lap and shoulder belts are 44 percent more likely to survive in a crash than unrestrained occupants in passenger cars. In passenger vans and SUVs, the likelihood increases to 73 percent.

In 2015, there were 2,369 motor vehicle traffic crashes that involved unrestrained occupants who sustained fatal or serious injuries. Overall in 2015, 3,518 traffic fatalities occurred in our state.

In 2015, of the 467 pickup truck drivers killed in Texas in a traffic crash, 216 were not wearing a seat belt.

Wearing a seat belt helps keep occupants from being ejected in a crash and increases the chances of surviving by 45 percent. In pickup trucks, that number jumps to 60 percent, as those vehicles are twice as likely as cars to roll over in a crash.