AUSTIN — Texans wear their belt buckles with a certain Lone Star pride, but it’s the buckles in their vehicles that could save their lives. More functional than fashionable, life-saving seat belts first debuted 45 years ago when Lyndon B. Johnson’s National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act and The Highway Safety Act went into effect mandating that all automobiles have seat belts as a standard feature. To honor President Johnson’s pioneering dedication to safety, the Texas Department of Transportation recently launched its 12th annual Click It or Ticket campaign at the LBJ Library in Austin with a car show demonstrating the progression of seat belts through the ages.
“The cost of not wearing seat belts is far greater than a ticket or fine,” said Phil Wilson, TxDOT executive director. “Simply put, a seat belt could save your life. Public awareness is working, but we still see some teenagers, pickup truck passengers and rural Texans who aren’t buckling up.”
Mission Police Corporal Manuel Casas said 97 percent of Mission residents wear their seatbelts. Starting this week, Mission Police Department will be looking for the three percent that don’t.
Casas added that accidents in the Mission area could be a lot worse if drivers and passengers aren’t wearing their seatbelts. He mentioned the recent accident involving a Telemundo vehicle. The vehicle rolled five times. The only reason they survived, Casas said, was because they were wearing their seatbelts. Otherwise, they would have been thrown out of the vehicle and could have faced life-threatening injuries.
Taking a cue from LBJ’s leadership, Texas has made seat belt safety a major priority and is proud to be one of the most buckled up states in the union. When the Click It or Ticket campaign began in 2002, only 76 percent of Texans buckled up. Today, 94 percent are wearing seat belts. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates the Click It or Ticket campaign has saved nearly 3,700 lives and prevented more than 50,000 serious injuries since its launch. The increase in seat belt usage also has saved an estimated $10 billion in wages and productivity losses, medical expenses, insurance premiums, taxes and other costs.
Despite an increase in seat belt compliance, there is more work to be done with the lives of Texans at stake. Initial TxDOT data from 2012 indicates traffic-related fatalities in Texas are up by 11 percent. In 2012, there were 3,400 fatalities due to traffic crashes across the state.
Data also shows that only 82 percent of pickup passengers are buckled when riding compared to more than 91 percent of passengers riding in cars. Pickups also are more likely than passenger cars to roll over or eject unrestrained occupants in a crash.
As part of the Click It or Ticket initiative, law enforcement officials across the state will be looking for and ticketing unbuckled drivers and passengers in an effort to raise safety awareness and prevent fatalities. By Texas law, all occupants of a vehicle, including back seat passengers, must wear a seat belt. Each unbuckled occupant faces a ticket and fines up to $200, plus court costs. Last year, more than 21,200 seat belt citations were issued during the Click It or Ticket campaign.
This year's campaign enforcement period dates are May 20 through June 2.
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The Progress Times is the hometown newspaper for the local communities of Mission, Sharyland, Alton, Palmview, La Joya and surrounding areas in Western Hidalgo County. We have a staff of veteran reporters who work diligently every week to bring our readers the latest news as it affects their hometown area and people.