CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The West Virginia Governor’s Highway Safety Program (GHSP) is reminding drivers about the lifesaving benefits of wearing a seat belt during the month of May, ahead of an expected busy summer travel season. The GHSP is working in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) national Click It or Ticket high-visibility enforcement effort. The statewide seat belt campaign, which coincides with the Memorial Day holiday, runs from May 14 to 31, 2021.
For this year’s Click It or Ticket seat belt mobilization effort, the GHSP is coordinating Border to Border (B2B) on May 24 in West Virginia in cooperation with NHTSA’s nationwide effort and in partnership with state highway safety offices across the country. B2B is a one-day, 4-hour national seat belt awareness event. The focus of B2B is on nighttime hours, when seat belt use is at its lowest. The B2B program aims to increase law enforcement participation by coordinating highly visible seat belt enforcement for drivers at heavily traveled, highly visible state border checkpoints.
“We want the act of buckling up to become automatic for all drivers and passengers,” said Governor Jim Justice. “It’s not just a safe thing to do—it’s the law in West Virginia.”
“You may think that you’re safe in a certain vehicle like a pickup truck, or on a certain road, like many of our country back roads in West Virginia. But the truth is, you are safest when you are buckled up,” said Bob Tipton, GHSP Director.
“If you are in a crash, the safest place to be is inside the vehicle. If you aren’t properly restrained, there’s a 75% chance you’ll be killed if you are ejected from a vehicle during a crash. If you buckle up in a light truck, you reduce your risk of fatal injury by 60% and your risk of moderate to critical injury by 65%,” continued Tipton.
According to NHTSA, in 2019, there were 9,466 unbuckled passenger vehicle occupants killed in crashes in the United States. Of West Virginia’s total roadway fatalities in 2019—which includes motorcyclists, pedestrians, and bicyclists—28% were unbuckled drivers and passengers. In that same year, 55% of passenger vehicle occupants killed at night (6 p.m.–5:59 a.m.) were not wearing their seat belts. That’s why one focus of the Click It or Ticket campaign is nighttime enforcement. Participating law enforcement agencies will be taking a no-excuses approach to seat belt law enforcement, writing citations day and night. In West Virginia, the maximum penalty for a seat belt violation is $25, with no added court costs or fees.
People who live in rural areas might believe that their crash exposure is lower, but in 2019, there were 11,971 passenger vehicle fatalities in rural locations, compared to 10,187 fatalities in urban locations. Out of those fatalities, 48% of those killed in the rural locations were not wearing their seat belts, compared to 45% in urban locations.
Due to the Memorial Day holiday, May is a critical period for law enforcement agencies to target unbuckled drivers. This is not a campaign to write tickets or train law enforcement. This is a campaign to help keep people safe and alive. Law enforcement officers and state highway safety officials see the casualties of not wearing a seat belt and are working to put an end to devasting preventable deaths in West Virginia.
“Some people may think that Click It or Ticket is about writing citations or making money. It is not. Enforcing the law saves lives, period. Before the primary seat belt law was passed in West Virginia, roadway fatalities numbered around 400 people nearly every year. Since the passage of the primary seat belt law, our fatality numbers have decreased substantially,” concluded Tipton.
For more information about the West Virginia Governor’s Highway Safety Program, visit www.dmv.wv.gov/ghsp or call 304-926-2509.