Washington — People who ride in pickup trucks use seat belts less often than passengers in cars, and the consequences are deadlier: A higher percentage of people killed in pickup truck crashes didn't buckle up compared to those in passenger cars, the government reported today.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration released those statistics to open the national "Click It or Ticket" campaign, which is used to enforce seat-belt laws nationwide using police checkpoints and patrols. The two-week campaign runs from May 23 through June 5.
The agency says more than 80 percent of the people in passenger cars buckled up in 2003, compared to 70 percent of those in pickup trucks.
But the numbers were more stark in terms of fatalities: 70 percent of those killed in pickup truck crashes in 2003 did not wear safety belts, compared to 50 percent of the fatalities in cars.
"While overall safety belt use is at an all-time high of 80 percent, 6,000 more lives could be saved each year if everyone buckled up," said Jeffrey Runge, administrator of the traffic safety agency.
To spread the message, the Transportation Department was spending more than $26 million on advertising to alert those who ride in pickup trucks and other vehicles about the importance of wearing a safety belt.
Statistics show seat belts reduce the risk of death by 45 percent in passenger cars and up to 60 percent in pickup trucks, SUVs and minivans.
The ads were targeting men ages 18-34 who watch television shows such as "Fear Factor," "American Idol" and various sporting events, including NASCAR's Coca Cola 600 on May 29.
Runge and others have pressed for states to enact laws that allow police to stop motorists solely for not wearing seat belts. Such laws, known as primary enforcement safety belt laws, are in place in 21 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.
The remaining states have secondary enforcement, which allows tickets for seat belt violations only if motorists are stopped for another offense. New Hampshire has no seat belt law for adults.
The national campaign was opening in Michigan, where safety belt use has reached 90.5 percent because of a primary enforcement safety belt law and greater enforcement. NHTSA and safety advocates were announcing the campaign today in Detroit.
Traffic deaths in Michigan have declined from 1,283 in 2003 to 1,159 in 2004.
"We in Congress support these seat belt mobilizations and our nation's law enforcement community because they are working to save lives," said Rep. Joe Knollenberg, R-Mich.