MOHAVE COUNTY - More than 15,000 passenger vehicle occupants died in traffic crashes between the nighttime hours of 6 p.m. and 5:59 a.m. during 2005, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and 59 percent of those passenger vehicle occupants killed were not wearing their seat belts at the time of the fatal crash.
The proportion of unbuckled deaths at night is considerably higher than the nearly as alarming 44 percent of passenger vehicle occupants who were not wearing their seats belts and were killed during daytime hours across the nation that same year.
That's why the Mohave County Sheriff's Office is joining with state and local law enforcement and highway safety officials during mid-May through Memorial Day to launch an aggressive national "Click It or Ticket" seat belt enforcement mobilization to crack down on low seat belt use and to reduce highway fatalities with a new emphasis this year on convincing more motorists to buckle up - day and night.
"Clearly more drivers at night than during the day are taking the attitude that 'it will never happen to me,' but the risk of a fatal crash actually goes up significantly at night," MCSO Sgt. Don Bischoff said.
Bischoff said regular seat belt use is the single most effective way to protect people and reduce fatalities in motor vehicle crashes. He said that in 2005, 77 percent of passenger vehicle occupants in a serious crash who were buckled up survived the crash, and that when worn correctly, seat belts have proven to reduce the risk of fatal injury to front-seat passenger car occupants by 45 percent, and by 60 percent in pickup trucks, SUVs and mini-vans.
Yet nearly one in five Americans - 19 percent nationally - still fail to regularly wear their seat belts when driving or riding in a motor vehicle according to NHTSA's observational seat belt studies.
Stepped-up law enforcement activities will be conducted during the national "Click It or Ticket" enforcement mobilization, which runs May 21-June 3. The mobilization is supported by a projected $10 million in paid national advertising and additional advertising in each state to encourage all motorists, but especially motorists at night, to always buckle up.
"Seat belts clearly save lives. But unfortunately, too many folks still need a tough reminder, so we are going to be out in force buckling down on those who are not buckled up," said Sheriff Tom Sheahan. "Wearing your seat belt costs you nothing, but the cost for not wearing it certainly will. So unless you want to risk a ticket, or worse, your life, please remember to buckle up day and night. 'Click It or Ticket.'"