Click It or Ticket high visibility enforcement underway in West Virginia

CHARLESTON — The West Virginia Governor’s Highway Safety Program (GHSP) is reminding drivers about the lifesaving benefits of correctly wearing a seat belt ahead of a summer travel season that is expected to be busier than usual this year. 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 runs from May 13 to 27, 2024, coinciding with the Memorial Day holiday.

“We want seat belt use to be an automatic habit for drivers and passengers alike,” said Jack McNeely, GHSP Director. “It’s not just a safe thing to do — it’s the law.

During the Click It or Ticket campaign, we will be partnering with law enforcement officers across local and state lines to ensure the message gets out to drivers and passengers. “Buckling up is the simplest thing you can do to limit injury or save your life during a crash. We see the results of not wearing a seat belt all the time. We see the loss of life. So often, it could have been prevented.” McNeely concluded.

In West Virginia, the seat belt use rate in 2023 was 93%. Participating law enforcement agencies will be taking a no-excuses approach to seat belt law enforcement, writing citations day and night.

“We want the act of correctly using their seat belts 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.”

“A lot of people have the misconception that they are 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 data proves you are safest when you are buckled up,” said McNeely.

One of the focuses of the Click It or Ticket campaign is nighttime enforcement. NHTSA data shows a higher number of unrestrained passenger vehicle occupant fatalities happen at night. Also, seat belt use differs among females and males. Of the males killed in crashes in 2021, more than half (54%) were unrestrained. For females killed in crashes, 42% were not buckled up.

The Click It or Ticket mobilization was created to crack down on violators 24/7, but a strong enforcement effort is urged between the nighttime hours of 6 p.m. and 5:59 a.m. due to the significant number of violators and fatal crashes during this time.

“A lot of people think that Click It or Ticket is about writing citations or making money. It is not. Law enforcement officers would rather write a seat belt citation—which is $25 with no added court fees—than notify your family that you have died in a motor vehicle crash,” McNeely said.

“Enforcing the law saves lives. Before the primary seat belt law was passed in West Virginia, roadway fatalities numbered around 400 people nearly every year,” continued McNeely.

Safety Tips

  • One of the safest choices drivers and passengers can make is to buckle up.
  • Buckle up all the time — for short trips and long trips.
  • The right seat belt fit matters:
    • The shoulder belt should lay flat across the middle of your chest and away from your neck.
    • The lap belt should fit across your hips, not your stomach.
    • Never put the shoulder belt behind your back or under your arm.
  • Seat belts are the best defense against impaired, aggressive, and distracted drivers. Being buckled up during a crash helps keep you safe and secure inside your vehicle; the seat belt slows you down and spreads crash forces over the strongest parts of your body.

2021 West Virginia Statistics

  • 280 total traffic fatalities
  • Rural: 174, Urban: 105, Unknown: 1
  • There were 184 passenger vehicle occupant fatalities, 74 were unrestrained

May is a critical period for law enforcement agencies to target unbuckled drivers due to the Memorial Day holiday being the unofficial start of summer. Law enforcement officers and state highway safety officials see the consequences of not wearing a seat belt almost daily and are working to put an end to devasting preventable deaths in West Virginia.

“If you know a friend or a family member who does not buckle up when they drive, please ask them to consider changing their habits. Help us spread this lifesaving message before one more friend or family member is killed as a result of this senseless inaction. Seat belts save lives, and everyone — front seat and back, child and adult — needs to remember to buckle up,” concluded McNeely.

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