AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Texas Department of Transportation is reminding drivers once again to “Click It or Ticket.” This is the 15th anniversary of the campaign, but many Texans are still not buckling up.
The agency says since the launch of Click It or Ticket, more than 5,000 lives have been saved, but just last year, one in 10 Texans were still not using their seatbelt, resulting in a nine percent increase in unbelted deaths.
In 2002, only 76 percent of drivers in Texas wore seat belts. Today nearly 92 percent buckle up. But eight percent still don’t, and that number doubles to 16 percent at night, when more fatalities occur. Last year, 62 percent of the 994 unbelted fatalities occurred at night.
In Austin, there were 37 motor vehicle crashes in which unrestrained occupants sustained fatal or serious injuries. These crashes resulted in eight fatalities and 32 serious injuries.
TxDOT Austin District Engineer Terry McCoy says their overall message will stay the same but they’re working harder to get the point across. “Increased enforcement, increased communication, sharing that and getting the word out the best we can to everybody.”
Assistant Chief Frank Dixon with the Austin Police Department says dedicating an amount of time every year to focus on seat belt awareness will keep deaths down. “It takes a long time to change human behavior because we are all set in our ways.”
The budget for the Click it or Ticket campaign is usually around $2 million per year. That entire amount is reimbursed by NHTSA and the funds are dedicated and cannot be used for anything else.
Law and Fines
In Texas, the seat belt law requires drivers and all passengers to be buckled up. Children younger than 8 years old have to ride in a child safety seat or booster seat unless they are 4 feet 9 inches tall.
In Travis County, if you’re caught driving without a seat belt on and you’re older than 15 years old, the fine is $50, but once you tack on court costs, it’s $157.