The Indiana Criminal Justice Institute (ICJI) is urging people to buckle up ahead of the summer holidays.
Starting May 22, state and local law enforcement agencies are teaming together to increase patrols as part of the national “Click it or Ticket” high-visibility enforcement event. The overtime patrols are funded by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) with grants administered by ICJI.
Officers will be out in full force leading up to the Memorial Day holiday to make sure drivers and passengers are buckled up and children are properly secure. Their goal is to reduce the number of traffic injuries and fatalities from lack of seat belt use.
Data from the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute (ICJI) shows that unbuckled motorists make up almost 40% of all passenger vehicle deaths in the state. Since the “Click It or Ticket” initiative began more than 20 years ago, seat belt use has gone up over 30% in Indiana to 93%, which remains higher than the national average of 91.6%.
Despite making progress and advances in vehicle safety, in 2022, 236 unbuckled vehicle occupants lost their lives on Indiana roads – the third highest in the past decade. Young drivers, especially males, were the most likely to speed and the least likely to be buckled during a crash.
Nationally, there were 11,813 unbuckled vehicle occupants killed in crashes.
“These numbers are not just statistics, they represent real people and families that have been forever changed by the tragedy of a traffic crash,” said Devon McDonald, ICJI Executive Director. “Many of the people we lost would still be alive today had they made the decision to buckle up. Seat belts make a difference. They save lives.”
Research has repeatedly demonstrated the safety benefits of seat belts and the dangerous consequences when people choose not to use them. Buckling up can reduce the risk of injury or death in a crash by up to 65%. Without a seat belt fastened, people can be ejected from a vehicle and killed, and that risk increases if the driver is speeding or impaired.
Tragically, vehicle collisions continue to be a leading cause of death for children ages 1 to 13, and NHTSA data shows that approximately 46% of all car seats are being used incorrectly. Parents and caregivers who do not buckle up are more likely to have kids who are improperly restrained.
"The loss of a child due to inadequate vehicle safety measures is a tragedy. However, it is also preventable," said Jim Bryan, ICJI Traffic Safety Director. "We owe it to our children to prioritize their safety and take every necessary precaution when it comes to their well-being.”
Indiana law requires the driver and all passengers to buckle up. Children under age eight must be properly restrained in a child car seat or booster seat according to the child restraint system manufacturer’s instructions.
During the campaign, participating law enforcement agencies will be taking a no-excuses approach to seat belt law enforcement, writing citations day and night. Drivers can be cited for lack of seat belt use, as well as for each unbuckled passenger under the age of 16.
The NHTSA reports that in 2021, 57% of passenger vehicle occupants killed at night (6 p.m. - 5:59 a.m.) were not wearing a seatbelt. That’s why one focus of the campaign is nighttime enforcement.
“It doesn’t matter what time of day it is, what type of vehicle you’re driving or the type of road you’re driving on, the best way to stay safe in case of a vehicle crash is to wear your seat belt,” said McDonald.
Parents and caregivers are encouraged to make sure children are in the right car seat and that it’s used correctly and properly installed. Resources can be found at www.nhtsa.gov/TheRightSeat. To schedule an appointment with a certified car seat safety technician at one of Indiana’s 100 fitting stations, visit on.in.gov/SafeKids.