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Buckling up could save you a ticket this weekend – and save your life

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Had my youngest brother not heeded the Wisconsin safety belt law as a teen in 1989 — one year after the law went into effect in 1988 — he probably would not have survived a bad accident at the age of 18 while on his way to school.

Though the entire front of his car had been sheared off, leaving his feet dangling in open air, he only sustained soreness where the lap belt was, and a broken jaw (there were no airbags then).

The Kohler Police Department along with 317 other agencies across the state will be participating in the Wisconsin Department of Transportation’s “Click it or ticket” campaign. The campaign, which runs from May 20 – June 2, 2019, reminds Wisconsin motorists to buckle up, while also reminding police officers to watch for violations of the seat belt law.

Though the total fine is only $10, the citations apply to every person in the car, so a driver could receive multiple citations if passengers are also in violation. Kohler Interim Police Chief David Darin said the campaign does not increase patrols via overtime, nor will there be concentrated areas of enforcement. But officers out on patrol will be watching for violators.

According to a fact sheet compiled by the Wisconsin DOT, consistent safety belt use is the single most effective way to protect people from being ejected from a vehicle or thrown around violently inside it during a crash and possibly hitting another vehicle occupant with massive force. Airbags alone will not stop a body from becoming a projectile, either.

Wisconsin’s safety belt use rate is 89% – among the highest ever, but it still lags behind Minnesota and Michigan that have seat belt use rates over 90%. About half of the car and truck occupants killed in Wisconsin traffic crashes are not wearing safety belts. That means nearly half of the drivers and passengers killed in Wisconsin car/truck crashes each year, consist of the 10% who don’t buckle up.

Teens, truck drivers among those least likely to buckle up
Traffic crashes are the leading cause of death for teens and young adults nationwide, according to the DOT fact sheet. Teens are needlessly killed or injured in large part because of a lack of safety belt use combined with inexperience and over-confidence behind the wheel.

Observational surveys indicate the people least likely to wear a safety belt in Wisconsin are male drivers of commercial motor vehicles and pick-up trucks.

Seat belt laws and enforcement – a life-saving combination
In 1987, Wisconsin’s seat belt use rate was just 26 percent. It more than doubled (to nearly 56%) in 1988 after Wisconsin’s “secondary enforcement” seat belt law took effect in December of 1987.
This year (2019) marks the 10-year anniversary of Wisconsin’s “primary enforcement” seat belt law (allows law enforcement to stop/cite a motorist solely for not buckling up). Drivers can also be cited for every unbuckled passenger in their vehicle.

Since the primary enforcement law took effect on June 30, 2009, Wisconsin’s seat belt use rate has increased from 74 percent (in 2009) to over 89 percent (today). Last year in Wisconsin, there were 50,875 traffic convictions for failure to wear a safety belt.

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