If a little road trip is on the Turkey Day agenda, be aware that law enforcement will be watching you.
The Texas Department of Transportation's 2020 Click it or Ticket campaign to encourage the use of seat belts is underway and will be enforced by the Texas Department of Public Safety, Texas Highway Patrol Sgt. Mark Tackett said.
“State Troopers will be working alongside local law enforcement looking for and ticketing drivers and passengers who aren’t buckled up, especially at night,” Tackett said.
The campaign, which began Nov. 16, runs through the Thanksgiving holiday and ends on Nov. 29.
In 2019 and 2020, state troopers have issued 163,960 citations and warnings for seat belt and child safety seat violations, law enforcement officials said.
State law in Texas requires the driver and all passengers — in the front seat or back seat — to be secured by a seat belt. Children under 8 years old must be in a child safety seat appropriate for their age and size or in a booster seat until they’re taller than 4 feet 9 inches.
Anyone in violation of the law can face fines up to $250, according to a press release from TxDOT.
Wearing a seat belt reduces the risk of dying by 45% for people in the front seat of passenger cars, the release indicates. For those in pickups, seat belts reduce the risk of dying by 60% since pickups are more likely to roll over than passenger vehicles.
Last year, there were 925 traffic fatalities involving an unbuckled driver or passenger, a 6% drop over the previous year, according to TxDOT officials.
Although around 9% of Texans do not wear a seat belt, the lack of seat belt usage was reported in 42% of traffic fatalities for those people who had the option to use a seat belt. That number excludes pedestrian, bicycle and motorcycle fatalities.
In TxDOT's Wichita Falls District, which covers Cooke, Montague, Archer, Baylor, Clay, Throckmorton, Wichita, Wilbarger and Young counties, 51 people were killed in 2019. Six of the 51 occurred in Cooke County. Twenty-five of the 51 were either not wearing their seat belts, only used a lap belt or use was unknown, officials said.
Cooke County Sheriff Terry Gilbert said his agency isn't participating in Click it or Ticket. However, deputies will be conducting routine patrol for the holiday. Gilbert asks everyone to drive safe and limit your consumption of alcohol.
Gainesville Police Chief Kevin Phillips says his department will also not be participating in Click it or Ticket this year.
“As for additional enforcement, staffing levels will be the same but officers will be focusing on the roadways for safety,” Phillips said.
AAA Texas predicts travel will be down this year because of the coronavirus pandemic, but those who do travel will opt for traveling in their vehicle. The travel agency estimates 3.8 million Texans will hit the road for the Thanksgiving holiday.
The following travel safety tips are from the Gainesville Police Department:
• Make sure your car is in good condition for a trip.
• Pack an emergency kit and supplies.
• Plan your route and be prepared for heavier traffic conditions.
• Share travel plans with a family member or friend.
• Monitor the weather and avoid severe weather if possible.
• Be well rested so you can stay alert.
• Make sure everyone is buckled up.
• Follow traffic safety laws.
• Focus on the road and avoid distractions such as cellphones.
• Don’t drive impaired.
• Make frequent stops to avoid fatigue. If you’re too tired to drive, stop and get some rest.
• If you have car trouble, pull off the road as far as possible.