More than 130 La. law enforcement agencies join Click It or Ticket

Staff Writer
Gonzales Weekly Citizen

Officers from 132 agencies are conducting overtime patrols and checkpoints May 20 through June 2 in Louisiana's largest-ever concentrated effort to increase use of seat belts through high-visibility enforcement. This year's Click It or Ticket campaign includes stepped-up enforcement, broadcast advertising and public education.

Highway safety officials are especially concerned about pickup truck occupants who have the lowest rates in Louisiana for buckling up. The Click It or Ticket campaign also reminds drivers and passengers that Louisiana law requires every vehicle occupant––including those in rear seats––to buckle their seat belts. Children must be in age-appropriate safety seats.

"Wearing a seat belt, regardless of where you are seated in a vehicle, greatly increases your chance of surviving or avoiding serious injuries in a crash," said Lt. Col. John LeBlanc, executive director of the Louisiana Highway Safety Commission. "Sadly, more than 61 percent of people killed in crashes in Louisiana in 2011 were not buckled up."

A 2012 observational survey of Louisiana motorists found that a record high 79 percent of drivers and front-seat passengers were using seat belts. Seat belt use has increased considerably since Louisiana passed its first mandatory seat-belt law in the mid-1980s when only 12 percent of motorists were buckling up.

Agencies participating in Click It or Ticket received grants from the Louisiana Highway Safety Commission to increase their seat belt enforcement activities May 20 through June 2, which includes the Memorial Day holiday. Enforcement activities during Click It or Ticket include increased patrols and check points. Click It or Ticket is a nationwide campaign coordinated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Louisiana first participated in Click It or Ticket in 2003, which resulted in a five percentage-point increase in statewide use of seat belts.

The three-day Memorial Day holiday period in Louisiana has traditionally experienced high rates of highway deaths. Last year, 12 people were killed in crashes during the Memorial Day holiday, second only to Thanksgiving, which was a four-day holiday.

"In order to truly change the culture in Louisiana, our enforcement efforts must be supported by a proactive public education campaign. This is our commitment within the Louisiana State Police," said State Police Superintendent Col. Mike Edmonson. "We will be working closely with our law enforcement partners across the state during the Click It or Ticket effort to raise awareness of Louisiana's seat-belt laws."

During the 2012 Click It or Ticket campaign, officers issued 20,597 seat belt citations. A total of 68,976 such citations were issued throughout the year.

Seat belt use varied widely between regions of Louisiana as well as by type of vehicle driven and whether those surveyed were males or females. The highest rate of seat belt use by vehicle type was 85.5 percent for occupants of vans, followed by 82.9 percent for SUV occupants, 82 percent for car occupants, and 71.7 percent for pickup truck occupants. Studies have shown that seat belt use is lower at night.

Motorists in Louisiana who refuse to buckle their seat belts and are involved in crashes cost society $988.8 million in 2010, higher than for alcohol-related crashes, according to the Louisiana State University Highway Safety Research Group.

According to NHTSA, seat belts reduce the risk of fatal injury to front-seat passenger car occupants by 45 percent and the risk of moderate to critical injuries by 50 percent. Sixty-one percent of the people killed in crashes in Louisiana in 2011 were not buckled up. An estimated eight lives are saved in Louisiana for every one percentage point increase in seat belt use.