Annual safety campaign starts, hopes to set new record

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COLUMBIA – Monday marks the beginning of this year’s “Click It or Ticket” campaign, a more aggressive effort headed by the Missouri State Highway Patrol to increase awareness of the importance of seat belts.

Michael Stapp, Senior System Management Specialist for MoDOT’s Traffic and Highway Safety Division, said the program has a different purpose than catching drivers not wearing their seat belt.

“The program brings attention to the people killed in traffic crashes. It shows the importance of using a safety belt on every trip, every time,” Stapp said. “If we can get more people to use their safety belts, we will save lives.”

Last year, 869 people were killed in traffic crashes in Missouri. 63 percent of those 869 did not have their seat belts on.

Highway Patrol Trooper Brandon Harris said the Highway Patrol steps up police presence on the road during this campaign to try to lessen the number of driver fatalities due to not using seat belts.

“We monitor aggressive driving with the more abundance of troopers that we have,” Harris said. “Some people have reasons for not wearing seat belts that we may never know, but it’s much safer to wear your seat belt. A couple seconds to put it on is definitely worth your life.”

Harris said despite the greater presence of highway patrol officers, they can’t effectively enforce this campaign alone.

“Local departments are the backbone of this campaign,” Stapp said. “The highway patrol doesn’t have the manpower to handle this alone.”

Stapp said MoDOT expects over 150 local agencies to join the highway patrol in the campaign.

He said this campaign has proven to be successful in raising awareness of the importance of seat belts. Nationwide seat belt use increased from 58 percent in 1994 to 87 percent in 2014. Missouri’s seat belt usage rate is lower than the national average, sitting at 80 percent.

Stapp said he hopes this year’s campaign raises Missouri’s average and also sets a new record low for driving fatalities. The current record was set in 2011 with 786.