Governor launches 'Click it or Ticket' seat belt campaign

NASHVILLE -- Gov. Don Sundquist, along with officials from the Tennessee Departments of Transportation and Safety, as well as other state and local law enforcement, highway safety and public health officials on Thursday launched Click it or Ticket, an aggressive statewide seat belt and child safety seat enforcement and public awareness campaign.
   "Countless lives are saved every day with the simple and proper use of seat belts and child safety seats," Sundquist said during the announcement at the State Capitol. "The facts speak for themselves. The best way to ensure our safety on the highways is to buckle up...plain and simple."
   From May 20 through June 2, law enforcement officers from municipal police agencies, county sheriffs' offices and the Tennessee Highway Patrol will intensify their enforcement of adult seat belt and child passenger safety seat laws. Officers will be conducting checkpoints and saturation patrols to look for and ticket drivers who violate these laws.
   Several public-awareness-building activities will preview the enforcement blitz, including radio and television public service advertisements and new public information materials. These efforts include a new Web site, www.clickitortickettennessee.com. All activities are federally funded and are being coordinated by the Governor's Highway Safety Office.
   During the event, the governor paid special tribute to several Tennesseans who helped pass landmark child safety legislation in 1977. Among those recognized were former State Rep. John Bragg, former State Sen. Edward Blank (now deceased), State Sen. Douglas Henry, Murfreesboro pediatrician Dr. Robert Sanders and his wife, Pat, and Mike Ellis, former director of the Governor's Highway Safety Office.
   "Twenty-five years ago, Tennessee was the first state in the nation to enact child passenger safety legislation, a monumental decision that saves lives each and every day," Sundquist said. "As we launch Click it or Ticket this year, we are pleased to recognize and thank those who made Tennessee a leader in protecting our children and who had the courage to make a difference on Tennessee's roadways."
   Last year, 684 unrestrained adults and children in Tennessee died in highway crashes. Nationally, traffic crashes continue to be the number one killer of kids and among the leading causes of adult deaths.
   "Click it or Ticket is the most comprehensive lifesaving campaign that Tennessee has ever undertaken," said Art Victorine, Governor's Highway Safety Office Director. "Last year, we saw a big jump in the number of people who used seat belts, and many lives were saved. This year, we will save even more lives. We're determined to make a difference."
   The 2002 Click it or Ticket campaign builds on last year's successful effort, which increased regular seat belt usage in Tennessee by 20 percentage points during the campaign period -- more than any other participating southeastern state. Tennessee's 2001 campaign received recognition from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for its success.
   Tennessee ranks 11th in the nation for traffic fatalities, which is 25 percent above the national average. Only 68 percent of Tennesseans regularly wear their seat belts, which is below the national average. More than 13,000 people died on Tennessee's roadways from 1991 to 2001. Unrestrained motorists account for two-thirds of the fatalities in Tennessee.
   For more information, visit the Web site, www.clickitortickettennessee.com.