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Archive for Monday, May 12, 2003

National seat belt campaign starts this week

May 12, 2003

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— People who don't buckle up will be targets of police traffic stops and a national ad campaign designed to increase seat belt use.

The campaign -- which is launched near every Memorial Day and Thanksgiving -- officially begins May 19. But the ads, alerting people to the traffic stops, start running today.

Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta and Surgeon General Richard Carmona were kicking off the "Click It or Ticket" campaign in Washington.

Starting May 19, officers from 12,000 law enforcement agencies in all 50 states and Puerto Rico will spend the next two weeks stepping up seat belt enforcement efforts. Some agencies will be using checkpoints; others plan to visit high schools to promote seat belt use.

The states will also be running television and radio ads to reach groups that still aren't buckling up -- primarily young men and minorities. The unprecedented ad campaign will cost $25 million.

Nationally, drivers are buckled up around 75 percent of the time, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Teenagers and young adults have the lowest rate of belt use, at 69 percent.

States with tougher laws have higher seat belt use. New Hampshire is the only state with no adult safety belt law.

Proponents of the 7-year-old "Click It or Ticket" program say studies show it has increased seat belt usage by an average of eight percentage points in states where it has been used.

But not all safety groups back "Click It or Ticket." The Governors Highway Safety Association, which represents state traffic safety officials, said the program strains scarce state resources.

Association Executive Director Barbara Harsha said many state officials would prefer to get block grants for programs that they could tailor to their states' needs.

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