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Thanksgiving Click It or Ticket campaign under way

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By Rachel Johnson, Staff Writer

Last year, 397 unbuckled motorists died in crashes on North Carolina roads.

In an effort to decrease the number of fatalities, N.C. Department of Transportation Secretary Gene Conti has launched a statewide Thanksgiving Click It or Ticket campaign to crack down on motorists who aren’t wearing their seat belts.

State and local law enforcement officers across the state will increase seat belt enforcement activities during the campaign, which runs through Nov. 25.

The campaign aligns with law enforcement activities locally. The N.C. Highway Patrol in Brunswick County has been working hard in recent months to spread seat belt safety awareness.

“Troopers are actively enforcing seat belts laws. We don’t give warnings on that. The only way to get out of not getting that ticket is to put it on,” said N.C. Highway Patrol Sgt. Troy Pope. “We are doing our best to encourage people to wear seat belts. When people don’t put a seat belt on and are ejected from the vehicle there is little chance for survival.”

In 2011, through November, the N.C. Highway Patrol had issued 2,211 seat belt tickets in New Hanover and Brunswick counties.

“This year the number is 3,011—that is 800 more citations than last year. We are really putting forth an effort,” Pope said.

He explained last year 66 percent of fatal wrecks in the two counties involved individuals who weren’t wearing a seat belt.

“We are trying to educate people that what we want you to do is wear these seat belts,” Pope said. “It will save your life.”

“We want everyone to make it home safely, not only during the holidays, but all year long,” Conti said. “So buckle up, and make sure your passengers are buckled up also.”

In 2011, the Research Triangle Institute reported that North Carolina’s seat belt usage rate was 88.7 percent. The state’s usage rate was 65 percent when the program started in 1993.

“Click It or Ticket” is administered by the N.C. Governor’s Highway Safety Program.

The Brunswick Beacon is sponsoring a poster contest promoting seat belt usage. See details on how you can participate on page 18A.