Seat belt campaign returns

During the program, officers won’t tolerate failures to buckle up.
Sunday, November 16, 2003 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 9:14 a.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008

As part of an ongoing initiative aimed at achieving higher levels of seat belt use, Missouri law enforcement agencies are to beginning another round of their “Click It or Ticket” campaign Monday.

The campaign, which is part of a national effort to increase the use of safety restraints, will run through Dec. 1. Police will emphasize increased enforcement of all Missouri’s traffic laws and have a “zero-tolerance” stance on safety belt laws. The effort is to increase awareness and compliance with these laws.

Jackie Allen, public information officer for the Missouri Division of Highway Safety, said that most law enforcement agencies always have zero-tolerance for non-use of seat belts. However, with the grants provided, departments are able to devote additional resources to the enforcement of moving violations related to crashes.

The national usage rate for seat belts in 2003 was 79 percent, a 4 percent increase from 2002, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s National Occupant Protection Use Survey. This is the greatest percentage of use since national surveys began in 1994.

Missouri has secondary seat belt laws for adults. This means law enforcement officers can only cite a vehicle’s adult occupant for failing to wear a seat belt if another traffic violation is committed. National seat belt use for states with secondary seat belt laws is just 75 percent.

States with primary seat belt laws, which allow traffic stops for just failing to wear a seat belt, have seen a use rate of 83 percent.

Allen says that Missouri’s seat belt usage rate is only about 73 percent.

Although a large reason for Missouri’s relatively low usage rate is believed to be due to the lack of primary seat belt laws, Allen says, Missouri’s rate was lower than the national average for secondary seat belt laws.

But Missouri is making progress, Allen said. When the program started in 1998, the use rate was just above 60 percent, she said. In the six years of the program, the state has seen that number increase to about 73 percent.

When the program began in Missouri, Allen said the first major goal was to achieve a 70 percent usage rate. After achieving that, Missouri set its sights higher.

“Now we’re striving to achieve the national average,” she said.

But Allen admits that without primary seat belt laws she is not sure if achieving the national average is attainable.

“Realistically, if (usage) can go up each year, we are very happy,” she said.

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