TxDOT Marks 20th Anniversary of Safety Belt Laws; Law Enforcement to Look for Violators

May 6, 2005

The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) is marking the 20th anniversary of Texas’ safety belt laws by kicking off the largest-ever statewide Click It or Ticket education and enforcement campaign.

Thousands of state troopers and local officers will be patrolling Texas highways and streets between May 23 and June 5 to issue citations to drivers and front seat passengers not wearing safety belts. Drivers whose children aren’t buckled up also will be ticketed.

Thanks to the state’s safety belt laws, federal officials estimate that 17,800 fewer Texans have been killed in traffic crashes since 1985 and 420,000 injuries have been prevented, resulting in economic savings that top $77 billion. In the past 20 years, the safety belt use rate in Texas has reportedly climbed from 14 percent to 83 percent.

TxDOT said its goal this year is to get at least another 3 percent of Texans – roughly 350,000 drivers – into the habit of buckling up. That’s why officials are directing stepped-up law enforcement efforts at the one in five Texans who don’t fasten their safety belts. They include pickup drivers and passengers, teens and parents whose children aren’t properly secured.

“Most people know the benefits of safety belts, but sometimes it takes the threat of an expensive citation to get drivers and passengers to obey the law,” said Carlos Lopez, TxDOT’s division director of traffic operations. “Since we started participating in the national Click It or Ticket initiative three years ago, safety belt compliance in Texas has climbed by almost 10 percent.”

With almost 4 million pickups on the road in Texas, this year’s Click It or Ticket campaign also includes a special focus on pickup drivers.

“In a crash, pickup trucks are twice as likely to roll over as cars, but their occupants buckle up less than any other group of drivers and passengers on Texas roads,” said Georgia Chakiris, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s regional administrator. “We want people in pickups to know their chances of surviving a rollover crash increase by up to 80 percent if they buckle up in their trucks.”

Drivers and front seat passengers are required to use safety belts in Texas. Children under 17 must be buckled up, whether they ride in the front or back of a vehicle. Child safety seats are required for children under four years of age or less than 36 inches tall. Fines for violations range from $25 to $200, plus court costs.

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