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Police: Wear seat belt or get a ticket

Until June 1, Buckle Up Florida a Florida Department of Transportation program, will hold its annual “Click it or Ticket” safety belt enforcement wave.

Although in past years there have been four safety belt enforcement waves, this year splits the focus with a child passenger safety week, a DUI enforcement wave surrounding Independence Day and a newly combined DUI and safety belt enforcement from Nov. 21 to Jan. 4, 2004.

“The enforcement waves are focused on times in Florida when highway traffic is high,” said Jennifer Marko, public information liaison of Buckle Up Florida.

Each wave involves Florida’s police departments and sheriff’s offices, the Florida Highway Patrol and other law enforcement agencies.

University Police will also be participating in the event. Mike Klingebiel, spokesman of UP, said a citation for not wearing a safety belt would cost about $60.

Diane Brunet, an outsource partner of Buckle Up Florida, said “Click it or Ticket” simply encourage safety belt usage.

Law enforcement agencies that hand out the most citations during the wave will be recognized for their efforts at next year’s news conference, Brunet said. The official statewide kick off for the 2003 “Click it or Ticket” campaign was held May 13 in Tallahassee.

“Saving lives is the goal,” Marko said.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that one of the 600,000 people involved in traffic crashes each year in Florida are 14 times more likely to be killed if they are not wearing a safety belt. The administration adds that 95 lives can be saved, almost 2,000 injuries can be avoided and more than $163 million can be saved each year if Florida increases its safety belt usage from 75 to 80 percent.

Florida’s safety belt laws state that the driver and any passenger in the front seat must wear a safety belt. For children under the age of 17, the law states that they must be in a federally approved safety seat or fastened in a safety belt, even when riding in the back seat.

In 2001 and 2002, “Click it or Ticket” proved to be the largest and most successful enforcement wave of the year. Each year experienced a 9 percent increase in safety belt usage statewide. This year’s goal is 78 percent usage.

“We’ve projected that based on the success we’ve had in the last two years,” Marko said.

Buckle Up Florida hopes to its goal through the help of a $2.5-million grant given to the Florida Department of Transportation by NHTSA. The grant with help pay for programs that encourage safety belt use. Buckle Up Florida received $1.6 million from the grant to promote the “Click it or Ticket” campaign, which will include the distribution of public service announcements the state wide in Florida.

“This grant is to specifically buy advertising. Memorial Day is typically a high-traffic holiday in Florida, and after the Memorial Day campaign each year, that’s when the official safety belt usage rate will be measured,” Marko said.

“Click it or Ticket” hopes to prevent unnecessary deaths and injuries by encouraging people to wear their safety belts.

“We hope that people will consistently remember to buckle up, and buckle up their children every time they get into their car,” Marko said.