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May 17, 2011 (LITTLE ROCK) – Today, the Arkansas State Police Highway Safety Office announced the annual “Click It or Ticket” campaign, May 23 – June 5. Coordinated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the campaign is a national effort to encourage motorists to obey the law and buckle up, both day and night. Arkansas’s mobilization efforts encompass state, county and city law enforcement all working overtime to emphasize the importance of consistent seat belt use. This is the tenth consecutive year that Arkansas has stepped-up enforcement efforts during this popular summer travel time. With the passage of a primary-offense seat belt safety law in 2009, law enforcement officers across the state are now authorized to initiate traffic stops if a driver or a passenger is not properly restrained. “Safety is always our number one priority,” said Colonel JR Howard, Director of the Arkansas State Police and Governor’s Highway Safety Representative. “Our increased presence around the Memorial Day holiday serves as a reminder of that commitment and that seat belts save lives.” Nationally, in 2009, 53 percent of fatally injured passenger vehicle occupants were not wearing their seat belts at the time of the crash, according to NHTSA. In Arkansas 63 percent of those killed were not buckled up. Statistics also reveal that drivers on the road between the hours of 6 p.m. and 5:59 a.m. are the least likely to buckle up, making nighttime enforcement a focus of this year’s mobilization effort. Nearly two-thirds (62 percent) of those who died on the road during nighttime hours were not properly restrained. “A crash can happen anywhere without warning, and Arkansas’s motorists should protect themselves by buckling up each and every time they get in their vehicles, regardless of what time it is on the clock,” said Colonel Howard. “And if they don’t, they should expect a ticket.” To alert the public of the increased enforcement efforts, the Arkansas Highway Safety Office has partnered with fast-food restaurants across the state to deliver safety messages to drive-through customers. Statewide advertising will also publicize “Click It or Ticket” and relay its life-saving message. When worn correctly, evidence demonstrates that seat belts reduce the risk of fatal injury to front seat car occupants by 45 percent and by as much as 60 percent in pickup trucks, SUVs and minivans. “Arkansas should be proud of its continued participation in this life-saving campaign,” said Chief Greg Donaldson, President of the Arkansas Association of Chiefs of Police. “And until all motorists make a point to buckle up, law enforcement won’t back-down and won’t hesitate to remind them of its importance.” The “Click It or Ticket” campaign has helped boost the national seat belt use rate to its all-time high of 85 percent in 2010, up from just 58 percent in 1994. In 2009 alone, seat belts saved 12,713 lives nationwide. Since its inception nationwide in 2003, tens of millions of motorists have been exposed to “Click It or Ticket,” changing public perceptions about the safety restraints. According to NHTSA, the annual mobilizations have raised usage rates more substantially and more quickly than any other program. Arkansas’s first participation in the Click It or Ticket campaign in 2002 resulted in a 10-percentage point increase in seat belt use, from 54 to 64 percent. The seat belt use rate continued to progress upward until 2009, when a primary seat belt law went into effect, which further increased the rate from 70.4 percent before the law to the current rate of 78.3 percent. However, the state is still below the national average of 85 percent. NHTSA estimates that just a 5 percentage point increase in the use of seat belts by Arkansas motorists would prevent 20 fatalities and 210 serious injuries, as well as save the state $45 million in economic costs annually. “Getting Arkansans to use their seat belts is an easy and proven way to save lives,” said Chuck Lange, Executive Director of the Arkansas Sheriffs Association. “A ticket is a small price to pay if it encourages buckling up and prevents future fatalities.” For more information, log onto the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration website at www.nhtsa.dot.gov or call the Arkansas Highway Safety Office at (501) 618-8136.