State Marks Record High Seat Belt Usage Rate as New Enforcement Push Begins

SACRAMENTO, Calif., Nov. 12, 2010 /PRNewswire via COMTEX/ -- Californians hit an all-time high mark for buckling up their seat belts according to figures just released by the California Office of Traffic Safety. In an observational survey done during the summer, 96.2 percent of drivers and passengers were using seat belts or child safety seats. This is up from the 2009 figure of 95.3 percent and above the previous high in 2008 of 95.7 percent.

The figures were released just prior to the start of the twice-yearly "Click It or Ticket" enforcement campaign, set to run November 15-29. More than 150 local law enforcement agencies statewide and the California Highway Patrol (CHP) will be participating in this year's "Click It or Ticket" mobilization.

"Regular seat belt use is the single most effective way to protect people and reduce fatalities in motor vehicle crashes," said Christopher J. Murphy, Director of the California Office of Traffic Safety (OTS). "Estimates indicate that well over 1,300 Californians survived crashes by buckling up last year.

However, we must continue to stress the importance of seat belt usage since hundreds of others will not be gathering with their families during the holidays because they chose not to use their seat belts." California ranks very high in usage rate compared to the national average of 84 percent. California's child safety seat usage rate also reached a record high of 95 percent in 2010, up from 90.9 percent in 2009 and the previous high of 94.4 percent in 2008. The 2010 teen/high school seat belt survey is currently underway, but in 2009 teens were trailing in their usage rate at 91.1 percent.

The State continues to aggressively push for seat belt compliance given that the remaining four percent represents well over 1 million people who do not buckle up. Seat belts reduce the risk of fatal injury to front-seat passenger car occupants by 45 percent, and by 60 percent in pickup trucks, SUVs, and minivans.

Signs around the state have been updated recently to reflect the current higher ticket amounts for seat belt offenses. They can start at a minimum of $142 for an adult and a minimum $445 for children under 16. A second offense for a child not properly restrained is more than $1000.

"Taking two seconds to buckle up can save your life or the life of a loved one," said Joe Farrow, Commissioner of the California Highway Patrol. "It's the single most effective thing you can do to survive a vehicle crash." Vehicle occupant protection is one of the main objectives of the California Strategic Highway Safety Plan, a collaboration of OTS, CHP, Cal Trans, DMV, Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Federal Highway Administration, county and local governments, as well as numerous advocate groups, businesses, community organizations and individuals. The Plan has the goal of significantly reducing deaths, injuries and economic losses resulting from traffic safety crashes.

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