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‘Click it or Ticket’ goes into the nighttime hours

Washington has the highest seat belt use ever recorded in the United States and the world, according to a survey.

96.3 percent of Washington drivers wear their seat belts and the Washington Traffic Safety Commission (WTSC) hopes to keep it that way.

For the first time since its inception, Washington’s “Click it or Ticket” campaign will focus on nighttime seat belt usage.

Starting Monday, 75 law enforcement agencies, including the Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office and Washington State Patrol, will look for seat belt violators at night. The heightened patrols will take place during the next two weeks.

“Even though there’s lower traffic volume at night, it’s almost the same amount of people getting killed,” said Carolyn Pence, traffic safety task force coordinator for the Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office. “Some of those fatalities could have been avoided with seat belts.”

From 2001 to 2005, 49 percent of vehicle occupant deaths occurred during the day and 51 percent occurred at night. The death rate at night is approximately four to five times higher because traffic volumes are much lower at night, according to a news release.

“More risky driving behaviors happen at night,” Pence explained.

From 2005 to 2006, 85 percent of seat belt tickets in Washington were written during the day, with only 15 percent written at night.

Between May 21 and June 3, Kitsap County Sheriff’s deputies will spend 48 extra hours patrolling the Silverdale area at nighttime looking for unbuckled motorists.

“The goal is to get everybody wearing seat belts,” said Sgt. Mike Merrill of the Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office.

When used correctly, lap and shoulder belts reduce the risk of fatal injury by 45 percent and critical injury by 50 percent nationally. WTSC and law enforcement agencies hope the “Click it or Ticket” campaign, which features television advertisements, will educate motorists and save lives.

“It’s quite simple, seat belts save lives,” stated Kitsap County Sheriff Steve Boyer in a news release.

The new nighttime project is being funded by WTSC with a special federal pilot grant from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). NHTSA will conduct research on the results of the project to determine if it increased nighttime seat belt usage.

“We believe this project will raise awareness and keep the seat belt rate high in Washington,” Pence said. “I think that over time it will be a successful campaign.”

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