By Jason A. Smith
A state-wide law-enforcement endeavor is again underway in Georgia to ensure that holiday travelers are buckled up in their vehicles.
The Governor's Office of Highway Safety (GOHS) is conducting its annual Memorial Day Click It Or Ticket campaign. The project, which kicked off Monday and extends through June 6, is designed to emphasize the importance of motorists wearing seat belts.
The Georgia Department of Transportation and the Georgia State Patrol (GSP), projected that an estimated 1,972 traffic accidents, with 696 injuries and 15 traffic deaths could occur on Georgia roads during the Click It Or Ticket period.
Katie Fallon, a spokesperson for the GOHS, said the Click It Or Ticket campaign has been successful in Georgia for more than a decade. "We've definitely seen a dramatic improvement in safety-belt-usage rates," Fallon said. "We've gone from a 73-percent usage rate in 2000, to nearly 90 percent today. We have also seen a reduction in fatal crash rates, so everything we do is a step in the right direction for reducing crashes, injuries and fatalities on our roads."
She added that law-enforcement agencies state-wide, including those in Henry and Clayton counties, are working to remind holiday drivers to "buckle up for every trip, every time."
Fallon said that, in addition to the established elements of the Click It Or Ticket campaign, the GOHS is now emphasizing seat-belt safety for another group of motorists, as well. The Georgia General Assembly, during the 2010 legislative session, passed Senate Bill 458, which would, for the first time, require drivers of pickup trucks to wear seat belts. The bill, according to Fallon, was sent to the office of Gov. Sonny Perdue on May 11. "As soon as the governor signs the bill into law, they, too, will be required to buckle up," she said.
"Buckling your seatbelt costs you nothing, but doing nothing can cost you everything," said GOHS Director Bob Dallas, in a news release. "Risking your life and the lives of your loved ones is just not worth it."
Seatbelts usage, according to the release, saved 13,250 lives in 2008. Still, the GOHS reports that nearly 20 percent of Americans fail to wear seat belts when driving or riding in a vehicle.
"The result in 2008 -- an additional 4,152 lives could have been saved nationwide,if seatbelts were worn at the time of the crash," the release said.