Officials launch Click it or Ticket to encourage safe travel over holiday weekend

Louisiana State Police

     BATON ROUGE – Millions of  Americans have teaken to the road to visit family and friends over the long holiday, highway safety and law enforcement officials are ramping up enforcement and reminding motorists of the most effective way to stay safe: buckle up.

     Law enforcement officials throughout the state are mobilizing, as part of a Click it or Ticket campaign, to reduce the number of traffic fatalities during America's most popular travel holiday.

     The Louisiana Highway Safety Commission is coordinating the campaign, which will put extra police, deputies and Louisiana State Police troopers on the roads through Nov. 29, to enforce Louisiana's mandatory seat belt law.

     Last year, over the five-day Thanksgiving holiday, there were 424 fatal and injury crashes. Twelve people died, and 710 were injured.

     Click it or Ticket will be in effect statewide until Nov. 29.

     "It couldn't have been a happy Thanksgiving for any of the victims or their families," said Louisiana Highway Safety Commission Executive Director John LeBlanc.

     According to the U.S. Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), a disturbing 58 percent-that is, nearly 6 out of 10-of the passenger vehicle occupants killed in crashes over the long Thanksgiving weekend 2013 were not wearing seat belts. At night, the statistic was even worse: 64 percent of the occupants killed at night were unbuckled.

     LeBlanc said alcohol use often plays a role in these fatalities. Of the 424 Thanksgiving holiday fatal and injury crashes in Louisiana last year, 61 were alcohol related. Seven out of the 12 fatalities involved alcohol. In addition, "there is a strong correlation between lack of seat belt use and impaired driving," he said.

     The increase in traffic over holidays is a major factor in the rise in crashes. "The odds of a crash go up as traffic increases, which makes it even more critical that every person in a vehicle buckle up," LeBlanc said.

     NHTSA estimates proper seat belt use reduces the risk of fatal injury to front seat passengers by 45 percent, and the risk of moderate to serious injury by 50 percent. The agency reports an additional 2,800 lives could have been saved in 2013 if everyone had worn seat belts that year.

     Seat belt use in Louisiana continues to climb, with a record 85.9 percent of drivers and front-seat passengers using seat belts this year, an increase of 1.8 percent over 2014, according to a statewide annual observational survey.

     In addition, seat belt use in every region of the state rose above 80 percent for the first time, and 68.9 percent of drivers were observed buckling up in rear seats - an increase of 14 percent over 2014. Officials attribute the improvements, in part, to public information and enforcement campaigns like Click it or Ticket. However, they say there is still much work to be done.

     "Despite the overwhelming number of Louisianians who regularly use seat belts, we still have a significant number who do not – primarily males, pickup truck drivers, minorities and rear seat occupants. This is where the majority of our fatalities are. If we can convince these motorists to take this one simple step, hundreds of lives could be saved in our state alone," LeBlanc explained.

     Louisiana law requires all occupants of a vehicle to be properly restrained – including those in rear seats. It is a primary enforcement seat-belt law, meaning officers can stop and ticket anyone they spot not buckled up.