Police stepping up seat belt enforcement

May 19, 2014

With this shaping up to be a busy Memorial Day weekend for travelers, police in Ohio and Kentucky are launching the annual Click It or Ticket enforcement campaign.  The federally funded program, running through June 1, is designed to increase seat belt use.  Public safety officials say there have been some improvements, but there's still lots of work to do.

Ohio's 990 traffic fatalities last year was the lowest number ever recorded by the state. Still, that figure doesn't satisfy the Director of Ohio's Department of Public Safety, John Born.

"Most of those deaths were preventable," says Born.  "Fifty-nine percent  of the people killed in 2013 Ohio highway accidents were not wearing available restraints."

And 2014 isn't looking any better.  Born notes that 64 percent of the deaths so far this year have been unrestrained.

Kentucky's seat belt use climbed to 85 percent last year and traffic deaths were at their lowest level in 65 years.  But Kentucky Office of Highway Safety Director Bill Bell agrees that too many people were killed whose lives would have been saved if they'd been wearing a safety belt.  He says there were 638 lives lost on Kentucky highways last year, an indication that people are still not taking the state's primary seat belt law seriously.

"They're just not aware of the huge risk of not buckling up," said Bell.

The Click It or Ticket campaign starts ahead of what's expected to be one of the busiest Memorial Day weekends in several years.  AAA estimates more than 36 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more from home.  That's a 1.5 percent increase from last year and the highest number since the recession.