Click it or ticket
By Fran Odyniec
If you haven’t noticed, Plain City is right in the thick of it.
Now through Sunday, June 3, the Plain City Police Department is reminding motorists to “Click it or Ticket” as part of the National Seat Belt Mobilization campaign sponsored by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
The goal is to increase seat belt usage.“We are building on last year’s campaign,” said Sgt. Dale McKee, of the Plain City Police Department. “This year we have gotten businesses in the village involved with more highly visible signage, plastic litter bags, and coasters. All these elements carry the message: ‘Click it or Ticket.’”
“It’s a reminder to everyone that wearing your seat belt can decrease accidents, reduce injuries, and save lives,” said Chief of Police Jim Hill.
Hill noted that with the participation of businesses in the village with “Click it or Ticket” reminders helps increase the impact of the campaign.
“There’s more buy-in from the community,” he said. “Those messages indicate that, and we are grateful to those businesses that are participating in the campaign.”
“People look for message signs,” said McKee. “It’s an ideal way to get the word out. When you get out of your car or when getting into your car, chances are there’s a sign in front of you that reminds you to buckle your seat belt.”
According to the NHTSA, about 45 million Americans still risk their lives by failing to regularly buckle up when driving or riding in motor vehicles. Men are less likely than women to buckle up. For example, in 2008, 60 percent of male passenger vehicle occupant fatalities were unrestrained, compared to 45 percent for females.
NHTSA research indicates that pickup truck drivers and passengers continue to have lower seat belt usage rates rather than occupants of other passenger vehicles.
Just ask Sgt. McKee what he sees while on patrol in Plain City.
“A big percentage who don’t wear their seat belts are males in pickup trucks,” he said. “That’s because they feel that since they’re in a bigger vehicle they’re safer than in a regular car. That’s not true.”
The NHTSA found that in 2008, 68 percent of pickup truck occupants who were killed in traffic crashes were not buckled up and approximately 62 percent of sport utility vehicle occupants who died were not wearing seat belts.
“Those figures prove that you can be injured or killed when not wearing a seat belt in either of those types of vehicles,” McKee said.
There are two levels of fines when a person is cited for not wearing a seat belt.
In Madison County, it is $70 for the driver and $70 for each passenger who is not buckled up. In Union County, an unrestrained driver gets a ticket for $96 and each of his or passengers not wearing a seat belt gets an $86 ticket.
The typical excuses McKee hears from folks he finds who are not wearing seat belts aren’t too creative:
• “I forgot to put it on.”
• “I just never get in the habit of putting it on.”
He said that adults are more likely than teen-agers to not wear seat belts, and that it is not unusual for him to notice a young passenger wearing a seat belt while the adult driver is not.
“The kids have adjusted to the message,” he said.
In fact, he has observed some younger folks actually reminding parents, “Make sure you put your seat belt on.”
However, what bothers McKee is that there are still one in five Americans who don’t wear seat belts.
“It’s the single most effective way to reduce injuries and save lives,” he said of using a seat belt. “We have to continue to reinforce the need and the reason to put seat belts on.”
Just take a quick look at those signs around Plain City, those coasters under your beverage, and that plastic bag you just got from a Plain City merchant: “Click it or Ticket.”
• NHTSA statistics show that in 2010, seat belts saved an estimated 12,546 lives nationwide.
• In 2010, 22,187 passenger vehicle occupants were killed in motor vehicle crashes; 51 percent were not wearing seat belts.
• Of all passenger vehicle occupants ejected from their vehicles, 78 percent suffered fatal injuries.
• The annual two-week Click it or Ticket campaign has resulted in three million seat belt citations over the last five years. That’s a ticket every other second.