With overwhelming evidence that seat belts save lives and help prevent serious injuries from automobile crashes, this year’s Texas Click It or Ticket (CIOT) campaign achieved a significant milestone — 10 years of success.
Since 2002, law enforcement officers have spent two weeks around Memorial Day targeting drivers and their passengers who are not wearing their seat belts. Violators can face up to a $250 fine. Since the CIOT campaign began, seat belt use in Texas has reached record levels.
And according to Katie Womack, a senior research scientist in the Texas A&M Transportation Institute’s Center for Transportation Safety, the high percentage of seat belt use is continuing.
Based on her annual, on-location surveys conducted immediately following the CIOT campaign — which this year ran from May 23 through June 5 — Womack and her team determined that 93.68 percent of drivers and their frontseat passengers are buckling up. Last year’s results were statistically the same at 93.84 percent.
When CIOT began, only 76 percent of Texas drivers and front-seat passengers buckled up. Last year’s number reached an all-time high. (In the decade of the campaign, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration claims that as a result of the increased belt use in Texas, 2,843 lives were saved and 48,000 fewer people suffered serious injuries.)
“After 10 years of Click It or Ticket, we’ve seen firsthand that the message is working,” Womack says. “I think what has been very effective in the campaign — aside from the fact that people know that belts save lives — is that drivers and their passengers do not want to get a ticket. Clearly that has been a motivator in changing behavior.”
Womack was surprised when a teenager in a focus group she was conducting recently (unrelated to CIOT) commented: “I remember the first time I heard ‘Click It or Ticket’ I thought it was just the coolest phrase ever.” Womack was impressed that the campaign was reaching teenagers, as well as adults.
The outreach portion of the CIOT campaign took on extra significance for the anniversary. The Texas Department of Transportation developed a website, Facebook page, YouTube commercials and numerous public service announcements — and even an 18-foot-by-7-foot sculpture highlighting the number “2,843,” to show the number of lives saved. The sculpture traveled to 12 Texas cities for press events.
“We are pleased that the messages are reaching so many people, and that we were able to maintain our high level of seat belt use over the last year,” TxDOT Traffic Safety Director Terry Pence says. “It means that lives are continually being saved. The challenge as we go forward is continuing this trend, and we are going to target those areas that we know could improve.”
Based on Womack’s seat belt surveys, Pence will continue to target the places and people who are not using the belts as much as the rest of the population, specifically, drivers in rural areas, pickup truck drivers and their passengers, and younger drivers.