Click It or Ticket: Crackdown on seat-belt use kicks off today

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By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland

PHOENIX -- Police and the Department of Public Safety have set up checkpoints all over the Valley to stop drivers and make sure they're using their seat belts.

As Bruce Haffner explains, it's all part of a nationwide safety campaign called "Click It or Ticket."

This enforcement wave -- the second in Arizona's special crackdown -- launched Saturday, and will continue all this week, wrapping up on Sunday, March 7. Two more enforcement periods are planned this year -- May 24-June 6, and Sept. 25-Oct. 1.

The operation is funded by the Arizona Governor's Office of Highway Safety, thanks to a $600,000 grant from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Arizona is one of two states to receive this money.

“Even though Arizona is a secondary law state for seat-belt usage, law enforcement officers will be taking a zero tolerance approach on drivers who are in violation of state law,” said Alberto Gutier, director of the Governor's Office of Highway Safety in a news release.

DPS says when seat belts are properly used, they are 45 percent effect in preventing death in a potentially fatal crash and 50 percent effective when it comes to preventing serious injuries.

"No other safety device has as much potential for immediately preventing deaths and injuries in motor vehicle crashes," said DPS on its Web site.

Nearly 30 law-enforcement agencies in Maricopa and Pima counties have stepped up traffic enforcement, looking specifically at seat-belt use.

Not only will officers be looking at seat belts, they are also targeting child-restraint violations.

According to numbers from the GOHS, 320 people killed in car wrecks in 2008 were not wearing their seat belts.

“The events and enforcement next week will help prevent needless tragedies on our streets and highways,” Gutier said.

According to the NHTSA, Click It or Ticket is the most successful seat-belt enforcement campaign ever, pushing seat-belt use to more than 80 percent.