The Missouri State Highway Patrol implemented a new program called Click It for Life this year to reduce the number of traffic fatalities that were reported during 2012.
The Highway Patrol created this campaign to spread awareness of seat belt education.
Sergeant Brent Bernhardt, Public Information and Education Missouri State Highway Patrol Troop B Officer, said the campaign continuously promoted by news releases, distribution of informational brochures and coordinating with local schools and police departments.
Bernhardt said there were traffic fatalities on state lettered roads and nearly every lettered highway system.
He said there were 828 traffic fatalities during 2012 and of those fatalities, 60 percent of the victims were not wearing seat belts.
A national campaign created by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration known as “Click It or Ticket” already exists, which is different than Click It for Life.
Captain Tim Hull, Missouri State Highway Patrol Director of Patrols and Public Information and Education Officer, said the two campaigns differ for various reasons. The campaigns are sponsored by different agencies and have different outreach methods. For example, Hull said the Highway Patrol gives a pamphlet to every driver during a traffic stop that explains the importance of seat belt safety.
Hull said traffic fatalities during 2012, especially during the spring, were higher because of a more mild winter. He said when weather is mild, drivers and motorcyclists drive more.
The increase of traffic fatalities had increased more than 20 percent halfway through 2012, he said.
Likewise, the percentage of victims of traffic fatalities not wearing a seat belt has increased during the last five years, according to the Missouri State Highway Patrol’s Traffic Safety Compendium.
The Highway Patrol spreads awareness by visiting high school sporting events, Hull said. He said the officers try to get students involved whenever possible.
Lieutenant Steve Farnsworth of the Kirksville Police Department said KPD works with the Highway Patrol to spread awareness about a variety of topics beyond seat belts, including alcohol enforcement. He said at the local level, the KPD has a school resource officer who works in Kirksville Schools and promotes safety through a variety of activities.
Farnsworth said the KPD works with Highway Patrol for other campaigns as well.
“Usually what happens is we duplicate what [Highway Patrol] do, whether it be at the schools or whether it be with seat belt enforcement during patrols.” Farnsworth said. “We coexist with them … depending on what program they have going on at the time.”
Hull said in addition to seat belt awareness, the Highway Patrol emphasizes awareness of distractions, driving while intoxicated and not obeying the speed limit, which are the three main causes of crashes. He said the number one cause of crashes is driver distraction.
“No matter where you are going and no matter how long the trip might be, we want to remind drivers that the first thing they should do is make sure everyone in the vehicle is wearing a seat belt or has on a proper child restraint,” Hull said.