Summer is the time of the year when Americans are traditionally on the go, and even with forecasts of fewer and shorter trips because of fuel prices, travel of some sort is inevitable.

And May is the month when it all begins.

So the Texas Department of Transportation will kick its annual safety campaign, “Click or Ticket,” this week. Beginning Monday and continuing through June 1, hundreds of police agencies across the state will participate in the enforcement mobilization.

The program arrives just as Texans are making their travel plans for the Memorial Day weekend and other vacation trips which are to come.

This is a good time for any Texan who drives or rides in the motor vehicle to refresh their knowledge on Texas laws regarding safety belt use. Everyone sitting in the front seat of a vehicle is required to wear one. Children under age 17 must be secured with a safety belt or in a child safety seat, whether they are sitting in the front or the back seat. A child less than 5 years old and less than 36 inches tall must be secured in a child safety seat under Texas law. Drivers can be stopped and ticketed for a safety belt violation if they, or any of their passengers under the age of 17, are not buckled up or properly restrained. Fines for violations range from $25 to $200, plus court costs.

Most people understand the safety implications, but sometimes they will gamble of the law of averages and skip the “buckle-up” routine out of personal convenience or expedience. But that is gradually changing. More Texans are buckling up now than ever before, and more lives are being saved. In 2006, safety belt use was at 90.4 percent. In 2007, in was up to 91.8 percent. The stated goal for this year is 92.5 percent, but the true goal is 100 percent, according to Texas Department of Public Safety Director Col. Thomas A. Davis Jr.

This emphasis on safety belt use also includes an added focus on occupants of the 4 million pickups on Texas highways. Recently released National Highway Traffic Safety statistics indicate that drivers of pickups are considerably less likely to buckle up, even though pickups are twice as likely to overturn in a crash compared to cars. Texas DPS officials said wearing a safety belt will reduce by 80 percent the risk of dying in a rollover pickup truck crash.

State laws and continued enforcement have built an awareness of the importance of safety belt use. Over the past 20 years, the usage rate among motorists on state highways has jumped from only 14 percent to 83 percent. The Texas Department of Transportation has a goal of increasing the compliance rate another 3 percent by the end of the year. That’s approximately 350,000 additional drivers.

These are a lot of numbers, and a lot of statistics. But the point of it all is for as many Texans as possible to avoid becoming one — or if they do, to be counted in the number whose lives have been saved or serious injuries prevented thanks to safety belt use.

That should be reason enough to convince the motoring public to buckle it. If it’s not, consider this: Since 1999, the DPS has had a zero-tolerance policy regarding seat belts and child safety seats. If your vehicle is stopped and you’re in violation, you will get a ticket.

It’s much more pleasant, and much safer too, to “click it.”

Brownwood Bulletin