Arkansas state and local law enforcement officers are hopeful for a fatality free Thanksgiving holiday weekend. Once again the officers will participate in the Click It or Ticket enforcement initiative to remind drivers and motor vehicle passengers to buckle-up whether it's a trip to the grocery store or going across state to visit family.
This year motorists are reminded that violation of the Arkansas seat belt law is a primary offense. The state law was amended by the General Assembly to allow officers to stop vehicles based on an officer's observations of a non-complaint drivers or passengers.
The law requires all front seat passengers and those less than 15 years of age to be properly restrained. All occupants must be properly belted or restrained when the driver is under the age of 18 and has a restricted driver's license.
The Click It or Ticket enforcement operation will begin Nov. 23 and continue through Nov. 29.
During the 2008 Thanksgiving holiday period, 12 people lost their lives in Arkansas traffic crashes.
Seat belts are the single most important safety device in your vehicle and have been proven in preventing death and serious injuries during highway crashes," Colonel Winford E. Phillips, Director of the Arkansas State Police, said. "I urge everyone to always drive carefully, don't drive if you're impaired and buckle-up on each and every trip, night or day."
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), more than 25,000 passenger vehicle occupants (drivers and passengers) died in motor vehicle traffic crashes in 2008 across the nation and more than half, 12,865, were not using seat belts.
During last year's Thanksgiving holiday period, 389 passenger vehicle occupants were killed on streets and highways across the nation in motor vehicle traffic crashes including 156 involved in crashes during daylight hours (6 a.m. to 5:59 p.m.) and 231 from crashes during the nighttime (6 p.m. to 5:59 a.m.). Two people died in crashes during unrecorded time periods.
Sixty-seven percent of the nighttime fatalities had unfastened seat belts (based on known restraint use); while 40 percent of the fatalities from daytime crashes were not wearing seat belts.
"Our seat belt law was changed to a primary law with hopes that we can save more lives, even if it means ticketing a violator," Colonel Phillips said. "Taking just a few seconds to buckle-up can save someone a lifetime of injury and agony."
Regular seat belt use is the single most effective way to protect people and reduce fatalities in motor vehicle crashes, according to NHTSA. Research has shown that when lap and shoulder belts are used properly, the risk of fatal injury to moderate to serious injury is reduced by 50 percent.
For more information about the Thanksgiving Click It or Ticket campaign for highway safety, visit www.trafficsafetymarketing.gov or call the Arkansas State Police Highway Safety Office at 501-618-8136.