Missouri seat belt use percentage sits below the national average

Click It or Ticket Campaign launches Monday until June 1

Click It or Click It campaign kickoff

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. - Fewer Missourians use seat belts than the national average, and it's been that way for six straight years.

Last year, 757 people died in traffic crashes in Missouri. More than 63 percent happened because someone was not wearing a seat belt.

Those numbers come from the launch of the Click It or Ticket campaign by the Missouri Highway Patrol and the Missouri Coalition for Roadway Safety. The campaign will run until June 1. Officials said on Monday they will use a "no-tolerance policy" when issuing tickets for seat belts during the time span.

The goal for the campaign is to reduce last year's deadly accident numbers by 15% this year.

"How many deaths in your family are acceptable? I'd say zero, so that's our goal is zero," said Col. Ron Replogle of the State Highway Patrol.

For the last six years, Missouri's seat belt usage of 79 percent remains below the national average of 86 percent. Officials said reaching that average could save more than 100 lives.

"These guys can tell you about the awful times we've had to go to people's houses and let them know that their loved ones have died," said Capt. John Wheeler of the Cole County Sheriff's Department. "The worst part of that is, is that these are deaths that should not have happened if they were just wearing their seat belt."

Officers had to do that 55 times between 2010 and 2012 in Boone and Cole counties alone. 33 of those people did not wear a seat belt.

Currently, Missouri does not have a statewide primary seat belt law. ABC 17 found that only 39 counties or cities in Missouri have local ones. That means, officers can only pull you over for a different traffic violation before giving you a ticket for not wearing a seat belt.

ABC 17's Angel Mendez asked officials if they supported a primary law for the Mid-Missouri area.

"But certainly, we feel like a primary law would save more lives, and if it saves more lives, I'm all for that," Replogle said.

Officials said they enforce seat belts year round. What's different about this campaign is that grant money is funding this two week effort that includes bringing in more officers for more hours specifically to enforce the use of seat belts.

State law shows you'll pay $10 for an adult and $50 for a child not wearing a seat belt on top of the traffic violation an officer pulls you over for.

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