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Keep holidays bright: Buckle up

With the onslaught of the various late year holidays such as Thanksgiving, Hanukkah and Christmas, increased highway travel is the norm, and this year, motorists have a choice.

The Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affair’s

(ADECA) Law Enforcement and Community Safety Division organized the "Click It or Ticket" program that begins this Friday and runs through Thanksgiving week.

During that period, more than 1,500 law enforcement officers become quite visible in an effort to detect violators of Alabama’s seat belt laws.

Spearheaded by The Law Enforcement Traffic Safety Division of ADECA, it involves checkpoints conducted jointly by state, county and municipal local law enforcement agencies. An intense public information and education campaign will run concurrently with the enforcement blitz to inform the motoring public of law enforcement’s attitude of &uot;zero tolerance&uot; for seat belt violations.

Here in Greenville, the Greenville Police Department will also take part, according to Chief Lonzo Ingram.

&uot;During this time, we’ll pay extra attention to drivers to make sure they’re wearing their safety restraints,&uot; he said.

&uot;We’ll also be on the lookout for children not properly fastened in child safety restraint seats.&uot;

Ingram said there would not necessarily be checkpoints, but rather an increased presence.

&uot;We’ll be upping our presence at areas such as shopping centers, schools and such,&uot; he said.

&uot;Naturally, the people on patrol will look for people who aren’t wearing their seatbelts:&uot;

The goal of the Click It or Ticket campaign is to increase Alabama’s seat belt usage rate by 10 percentage points. The seat belt usage rate is currently 79 percent. By increasing the usage rate to 85 percent, at least another 44 lives could be saved, 456 serious injuries could be prevented and the state will save $48,543,320.

&uot;The good news is that seat belt usage is up overall from 69 percent in 2002 to over 75 percent now,&uot; Ingram said.

&uot;The word is out that motorists are being ticketed for not using the seatbelt.&uot;

As an example of the importance of seat belt use, Ingram referred to an accident on Interstate 65 from this past Saturday.

&uot;This weekend we had a rollover crash when an Explorer with eight people inside flipped over,&uot; he said.

&uot;Five of those inside were ejected from the vehicle.&uot;

Ingram stressed the importance of all occupants of the vehicle should be buckled in.

&uot;It is important to remember that when a vehicle crashes into another vehicle or into something, anything that is not secured inside the vehicle becomes like a guided missile,&uot; Ingram said.

&uot;In the event of a crash, passengers not buckled in can be slammed forward into the back of the front or they could be ejected from the vehicle.&uot;

The chief said in his long career as a police officer he has seen many fatalities and he did say most of those killed or seriously injured were not buckled up.

According to statistics released from ADECA, African-Americans and Latinos are killed in greater numbers due to car crashes.

In fact, the leading cause of death for African-American children under the age of 14 are car crashes. Crashes are the second leading cause of death for African-Americans between 15 and 24 years old. In Alabama, African-Americans buckle up 5 percent less than Caucasians. Although African-American youth travel fewer miles than Caucasians, they are twice as likely to die in crashes.

In the Latino group, car crashes rank as the number one cause of death in ages 1-44 years, and crashes ranks as the third leading cause of death overall for the Latino community.

Latinos buckle up 20% less than whites in Alabama.

The Click It or Ticket program kicks off again on Friday and runs through the next week.