With the annual “Click It or Ticket” seat-belt enforcement campaign starting on Monday, we can expect New Jersey police officers to be out in force checking that we’ve buckled up.
Experts say wearing a seat belt reduces a vehicle occupant’s risk of fatal injury by 45 percent and critical injury by 50 percent. And crash statistics show that from 2013 through 2017, seat-belt use saved more than 69,000 lives nationally, more than 1,000 of them in New Jersey. (The state’s primary seat-belt law requires all motorists and passengers in the front seat, including passengers under the age of 18, to wear a seat belt or be securely buckled in a car seat, or face a $46 fine.)
New Jersey drivers and their front-seat passengers are among the best in the nation for wearing their seat belts, according to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. In 2018, they observed the lifesaving law to buckle up at a rate of 94.5 percent, well above the national average of 89.6 percent.
But here’s the kicker: Only 39 percent of New Jersey adults riding in rear seats used seat belts and “…this is a concern,” said Eric Heitmann, director of the Division of Highway Traffic Safety. “This year, our Click It or Ticket campaign will promote seat belt usage in all seating positions in the vehicle, both front AND rear… History has shown us that when it comes to seatbelt usage, habits can be changed over time. Buckling up in the back seat is an important habit that will save lives.” (It’s a secondary offense for adults over the age of 18 to ride unbuckled in the back seat of a vehicle.)
During last year’s Click It or Ticket mobilization, police in New Jersey issued 19,659 seat-belt citations, up from 17,792 issued during the 2017 campaign. In addition, they wrote 534 citations for issues with child restraint and 4,437 speeding citations. They also made 661 DWI arrests.