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Police valleywide to step up enforcement of seat belt laws

Buckle up, Nevadans.

The state's semiannual Click It or Ticket campaign is set to run from May 21 to June 3, increasing enforcement of seat belt laws.

The campaign is scheduled to run again in November.

Traci Pearl, division chief of the Nevada Department of Public Safety's Office of Traffic Safety, said the campaign has been successful, overall, in changing the public's attitude about seat belts.

Nevada was one of three pilot states to start the program in 2001. At the time, the seat belt use average was 74 percent, she said. Seat belt use peaked at 94 percent last year.

"The campaign has been a major function of the increase," Pearl said. "Cars are also coming out with new safety reminders every day.

"Getting someone who usually doesn't buckle up to buckle up takes a fine," Pearl said. "The threat of being killed or injured doesn't work."

Males ages 16 to 25 are the least likely to wear seat belts and, thus, the target demographic, Pearl said. Click It or Ticket is highly advertised on TV and radio networks such as ESPN.

The state received $230,000 in 2011 for increased patrol and advertising. The federal grant covers only overtime enforcement, Pearl said.

A seat belt citation can cost up to $25 under Nevada law. Including court fees, the average citation costs $67.

The Nevada University Transportation Center at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas conducts pre- and post-campaign surveys every year to track its effectiveness.

Pushkin Kachroo, director of the Transportation Research Center at UNLV, helped collect data at 64 sites across the state in 2011. The statewide average for seat belt usage during the day was 94 percent following the campaign. It was an increase of 2 percent from the pre-campaign surveys.

The nighttime seat belt average was 93 percent, an increase of about 3 percent from pre-campaign surveys.

The national average is 82 percent, Kachroo said, so Nevada is doing relatively well. But people in half of traffic fatalities are not buckled up, he said. And in 2009, about 63 percent of nighttime fatalities were victims who were unbuckled.

Unbuckled drivers affect everyone.

The average charges for a hospital patient involved in a car accident not wearing a seat belt was $98,210, compared to $68,953 for patients who wore seat belts, according to a 2009 study by the University of Nevada School of Medicine.

"We need to get more aggressive and disproportionately aggressive to people who ignore the message," Kachroo said. "The solution is extremely simple and the outcome is extremely big. It's just a simple click."

As of April, there had been 51 car occupant fatalities in Nevada in 2012. Of the 51 people who died, 27 wore seat belts.

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Contact View education reporter Jeff Mosier at or 224-5524.