93% of drivers in Washington buckle up when driving, and 93 is a pretty nifty, but beginning now, local law enforcement would like to help us all achieve an even higher percentage of seat belt compliance, especially on less traveled county roads, with a $136 reminder if you choose not buckle your safety restraint device and are caught when in motion.
Law enforcement in both Benton and Franklin counties will commence supplementary patrols on county roads right away, looking for unbuckled motorists, as part of their annual Click It or Ticket campaign. Drivers OR passengers caught without wearing their seat belts face a $136 fine. The patrols run through November 29. The extra patrols are funded by the Washington Traffic Safety Commission (WTSC). Participating law enforcement agencies include:
Benton County Sheriff’s Department
Franklin County Sheriff’s Department
Pasco Police Department
Richland Police Department
West Richland Police Department
Kennewick Police Department
“Our goal is to remind everyone to fasten their seat belts,” said regional Target Zero Manager Jen Dorsett. “Most of us buckle up. We know it’s safer and wearing your seat belt drops your risk of fatal injury in a crash by 45 percent. Let’s keep everyone safe and get everyone buckled up.”
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Seat belt use rates in the Tri-cities area are close to the state average of 93 percent - but too many fatalities involving people not using their seat belts still occur.
In 2019, 16 percent of crash deaths involved an unbuckled occupant in Benton County, and 25 percent in Franklin County. According to fatality data from the WTSC, most of the unrestrained deaths statewide in 2019 were male (69 percent) and younger, 21-to-25 years old, followed by 36-40 years old.
“Getting most people to buckle up is a success story, but it’s not the end of the story until everyone clicks,” said Dorsett. “You can help save a life today by encouraging friends and family to wear their seat belt.” Dorsett said there were three specific steps people can take:
Model – always wear your seat belt
Discuss – speak with family members, especially young drivers, about the importance of seatbelt use
Advocate – say something when you see someone not wearing their seat belt
Dorsett said it’s also important to counter misperceptions that could lead people to falsely conclude they don’t need to wear a seat belt. “Front seat or back seat, city roads or country roads, big trucks or small cars, it’s the same message: Seat belts save lives.”