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County, law enforcement gear up for annual Click It or Ticket campaign

Law enforcement agencies from across Clark County gathered Tuesday to prepare for the kick off of the annual Click It or Ticket seat belt safety campaign, which will begin on Monday and run through June 1.

The Clark County Safe Communities Coalition received a $50,000 educational grant from the state for traffic safety and will use part of it to promote the national Click It or Ticket campaign, which centers on the enforcement of seat belt laws. The group partners with the agencies to promote the national campaign to educate communities about the importance of wearing seat belts in vehicles.

Current statistics show the seat belt usage rate throughout Clark County is about 79 percent, and traffic safety organizers hope to raise that number to 85 percent. Drivers inside the Springfield city limits and drivers in pickup trucks have a lower seat belt usage rate, said Anita Biles of the Clark County Combined Health District.

“We’re here to enforce traffic safety laws, including the seat belt safety laws here in Ohio, to reduce deaths, injuries and anything else that we can with the traffic laws themselves,” said Lt. Brian Aller, commander of the Springfield post of the State Highway Patrol. Aller spoke as a representative for all county law enforcement agencies at Tuesday’s meeting.

Between 75 and 80 percent of fatal crashes in Clark County involve victims who are not wearing seat belts, Aller said. He and other safety agents encourage people to wear their seat belts to reduce fatal crashes and to protect themselves against serious injuries. Law enforcement agents hear a myriad of excuses for why drivers and passengers in Clark County choose not to buckle their seat belts, including that it is “their right” whether or not to use the safety device, Aller said.

Part of the Click It or Ticket campaign focuses on adults being role models for children, who will in turn follow their example and buckle up when they ride in vehicles, Biles said. Safety experts say that seat belts are the best way to keep drivers and passengers secure during a vehicle collision.

“People think the airbags are the godsend and that they’ll save you from any kind of crash, but with the higher speeds that we’re traveling, seat belts will save you more than anything else,” said Aller. “They actually keep you strapped in whether you’re rolling over or anything like that.”

Drivers an face fines up to $150 — depending on what county or jurisdiction they are ticketed in — if they are stopped for a traffic violation and are not wearing their seat belt. There can also be fines if a passenger is not buckled in, officials said.

The Safe Communities Coalition also holds educational meetings at businesses and schools during the campaign. This includes a random seat belt safety check for employees of county agencies, who will receive points that can be redeemed for deductions on their health insurance, Biles said.

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