Memorial Day weekend traditionally marks the unofficial beginning of summer. And soon, by the millions, our families, friends, and neighbors will hit the road for a vacation across the country or a barbecue across town.
This morning, I was pleased to join National Highway Traffic Safety Administrator David Strickland and Chief James Johnson of the Baltimore County Police Department to officially launch the 2011 “Click It or Ticket” seat belt enforcement campaign. I am particularly grateful to the officers from area law enforcement agencies for coming down to DOT headquarters on their own time to show their support for this campaign.
Through June 5, 10,000 police departments coast-to-coast will be out in force writing tickets if you’re not wearing a seat belt. Their message is simple: If you’re not buckled up, they will ticket you--every single time they catch you driving or riding unbelted in your car.
But, as Chief Johnson and Administrator Strickland both said, this campaign is not about writing tickets. It's about saving lives.
Yet, amazingly, some 45 million Americans still won’t buckle up. Our friends and neighbors are still dying unnecessarily.
Now, when you put together the fact that only 15 percent of Americans don't buckle up, yet 53 percent of all fatal crash victims in 2009 were unbuckled, you can see how over-represented the unbuckled are in our most tragic crash statistics.
Young people–especially men–are particularly at risk. In fact, 58 percent of men who died in a traffic crash in 2009 weren’t wearing their seat belt. That's why we're making a concerted effort to reach young drivers and encourage them to change their behavior.
The use of seat belts is also particularly limited among African Americans and Latinos. In fact, more than half of all African American children who die in traffic accidents were unrestrained, the highest percentage among any race or ethnicity.
That’s why DOT is working with the Department of Health and Human Services National Partnership for Action to End Health Disparities.
Wearing your seat belt takes a second and costs you nothing. Not wearing one may cost you everything.
This holiday weekend and every time you get in the car, put safety first. That means buckling up, turning off your cell phone, and and putting it in the glove box. And remember, if you're over the limit, you're under arrest.