By Rachel Dove
CHARLESTON - Law enforcement agencies across West Virginia are watching very closely to see if drivers are buckled up behind the wheel.
Police across the state conducted the first of four seat belt-enforcement blitzes, also known as Click it or Ticket, in November 2013 and, according to state officials, the campaign has been a very successful one.
The West Virginia Highway Safety Office and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration have provided highway safety funds to conduct campaigns that go along with the national campaign scheduled every May. The organizations said since reaching an all-time high seat belt use rate of 89 percent three years ago, it has slowly declined to 82 percent statewide. Their goal is 92 percent safety belt use by June.
Statistics show that seat belts save lives. According to a release from the West Virginia Highway Safety Office, in 2011 alone, seat belts saved an estimated 11,949 lives nationwide. In fatal crashes during 2011, 77 percent of passenger-vehicle occupants who were thrown from their vehicles were killed.
Police will conduct a substantial portion of their patrols during the early evening and early morning hours because statistics show 62 percent of the 10,135 people killed in crashes happened overnight in 2011.
Drivers also need to remember that West Virginia’s seat belt laws are a primary law, meaning that police can stop a driver and issue a citation simply for not wearing a seat belt. Officers also will be watching for drivers who are texting and talking on their cell phones without a hands-free device because that is also against the law.
Following the month-long “Click-It or Ticket” campaign that ends May 31, one more is scheduled for 2014 and will take place Sept. 5-21.