Surprise Seat Belt Checks at Rock Bridge High School

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COLUMBIA - A 2012 report done by the Missouri Safety Center showed that only 66.5% of Missouri teenagers wear their seat belts.

As part of the statewide Click It or Ticket Campaign the Missouri Coalition for Roadway Safety's Central Region conducted surprise seat belt checks Tuesday at Columbia high schools. The surprise seat belt checks were meant to promote the importance of wearing seat belts as well as to remind teens that the enforcement of seat belt wearing is heightened during the Click It or Ticket campaign.

The surprise seat belt checks caught Hickman High School students off guard Tuesday morning as they pulled into school and Rock Bridge High School students Tuesday afternoon as the students left. Police officers and other officials gave students candy for wearing their seat belts and stern warnings for not wearing them.

Event organizer Dianna Johnson says she hopes this warning will teach teens the importance of buckling up no matter how far their destination.

"There is a high percentage of accidents that happen very close to where you work or live, so it's important to always have your seat belt on no matter how far you're going," Johnson said.

Johnson says Missouri needs to work toward the national average of 86% of drivers using seat belts.

Rock Bridge student Deven Niederhelm says he doesn't mind the reminder.

"I think it's good. If students realize that they can be pulled over and ticketed for doing that [not wearing their seat belts] then it might encourage them to wear their seat belts more often," Niederhelm said.

Niderhelm says he always wears his seat belt because he knows the importance of the added safety. According to the Missouri Safety Center, wearing a seat belt can reduce the risk of fatality by 45%.

The Click It or Ticket campaign began May 20 and goes until June 2. For more information click here.