By JB Clark/NEMS Daily Journal
FULTON – Mississippi law enforcement officers begin a campaign to increase seat belt use Monday.
The Mississippi Click It or Ticket campaign is a annual event from Tuesday to June 2 that aims to drive traffic accident fatalities down by increasing the number of people wearing seat belts in motor vehicles.
“It’s not about writing tickets as much as it is about changing behavior and getting people to start wearing set belts so we can keep our people alive,” said Office of Highway Safety Liaison and Sherman Police Chief Joel Spellins at the campaign’s annual kickoff lunch in Fulton. “Seat belt usage has increased and our death rate is going down every year because of that.”
The Mississippi Office of Highway Safety reported 71.3 percent of Mississippians surveyed reported wearing seat belts in 2008 and that number went up by 10 percent by 2011.
In that same time period, the number of traffic fatalities dropped from 783 to 630, or 19.5 percent.
Lee County Coroner Carolyn Green said she would estimate 90 percent of Lee County’s traffic fatalities are people who weren’t wearing seat belts.
“The majority of fatalities that are in fatal car crashes are ejected, and those don’t happen when you wear a seat belt,” Green said.
In Lee County, seat belt usage is estimated at 7.48 percent lower than the state average, according to the Office of Highway Safety.
Highway Safety also reports seat belts will save money in addition to lives. Each year, car crashes cost the state an estimated $2,511,784,000.
“I know seat belt violations aren’t popular tickets to write but it’s got to be done,” Spellins said. “We’re losing way too many of our people up here in north Mississippi.”