As motorists take to the roads this Memorial Day holiday, the Florida Highway Patrol and other law enforcement agencies are urging everyone to buckle up.
Beginning Monday, law enforcement officers nationwide will be out in full force, taking part in the 2017 "Click It or Ticket" seat belt enforcement operation and cracking down on those who do not buckle up.
“FHP is committed to making the roadways safer through the use of education and enforcement campaigns such as Click it or Ticket,” said Colonel Gene Spaulding, director of the Florida Highway Patrol. “FHP will continue to collaborate with our law enforcement partners on such initiatives to pave the way to a safer Florida and ensure our loved ones make it to their destinations safely.”
Bunnell and Flagler Beach police departments, along with the Flagler County Sheriff's Office, are among the agencies participating in the campaign, which aims to saves lives.
“As we kick off the busy summer season, it is crucial that everyone buckles up every time they go out, day and night -- no excuses,” Flagler County Sheriff Rick Staly said. “Our deputies are prepared to ticket anyone who is not wearing their seat belt, including drivers that have neglected to properly buckle up their children.”
Data from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration shows nearly half (48 percent) of the 22,441 occupants killed in crashes in 2015 were unbuckled. In addition, 57 percent of passenger vehicle occupants killed at night were not wearing their seat belts, compared to 40 percent killed during the daytime.
According to the NHTSA, in 2015, the use of seat belts in passenger vehicles saved an estimated 13,941 lives. From 2011 to 2015, seat belts saved an estimated 64,000 lives.
In 2016, more than 41 percent of those who were killed in crashes in vehicles where seat belt use is required chose not to wear their seat belts, according to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles.
"It's like brushing your teeth," driver David Cribbs told News4Jax on Monday. "It's got to be a habit. If it's not a habit, then they are not going to get used to doing it. Get in your truck, put on your seat belt and be safe, right? That's what it's all about."
Troopers reminded everyone that Florida law requires the use of seat belts by drivers and passengers in the front seat and all children younger than 18 in the front or back seat of a motor vehicle. The cost for a seat belt violation is $30. And if a child is not buckled up, it’s $60.
"There's a lot of accidents and people get ejected out of vehicles because they didn't get their seat belts on," said driver Fredrick Morand. "But it's a good thing, I think, 'Click It or Ticket.'"
Troopers urged people to follow these safety tips:
- Buckle up, every time. A seat belt is your vehicle’s best safety feature. Set the example.
- Make sure your rear-seat passengers are also buckled. They are more likely to injure themselves and other passengers in a crash, if not buckled up.
- Seat belts plus air bags provide the greatest protection for adults. However, air bags are not a substitute for seat belts.
- Obey all speed limits. Traffic congestion and construction zones may require driving more slowly.
- Drive sober. One drink is one too many.
- Don’t drive distracted. Anything that takes your full attention off the road, even for a second, could be deadly.
While this year’s Click It or Ticket enforcement operation runs until June 4, officers will continue to save lives by enforcing seat belt laws year-round.
For more on the national Click It or Ticket operation, please visit www.nhtsa.gov.