The Wausau Police Department will join hundreds of other law enforcement agencies throughout Wisconsin for the annual ‘Click It or Ticket’ safety belt enforcement campaign from May 22 to June 4.

“Whether you’re a driver or a passenger, wearing a safety belt is the single most important step you can take to protect yourself every time you travel,” Wausau Police Lt. Andrew Hartwig wrote, in a May 7 news release. “During the Click It or Ticket mobilization and throughout the year, our goal is not to write citations. Through enforcement and education, we want to prevent injuries and deaths by encouraging everyone to buckle up every day, every trip.”

Although the state’s safety belt use rate of 88.4 percent is the highest ever, nearly half of the drivers and passengers killed in Wisconsin traffic crashes last year were not wearing safety belts. In addition, last year there were over 68,500 convictions for failure to fasten a seat belt.

“By buckling up, you’re protecting yourself from being ejected during a crash or thrown around violently inside a vehicle,” Hartwig said. “For our officers, Click It or Ticket is more than a slogan. It’s about preventing injuries and saving lives.”

In a Facebook post dated May 9, the Wausau Police Department shared this reminder:

Dear City of Wausau,

Traffic crashes take an enormous toll on victims, their families, and our society in general. Equally tragic is that many traffic deaths and injuries could be prevented with the simple click of a safety belt. To encourage all motorists to buckle up every trip, Wausau Police Department is joining law enforcement agencies across Wisconsin as part of the annual Click It or Ticket mobilization May 22 to June 4.

Public education and enforcement efforts like Click It or Ticket have helped increase safety belt use in Wisconsin to over 88 percent. Still, last year in Wisconsin, nearly half of the drivers and passengers killed in traffic crashes were not wearing a safety belt.

We take public safety and safety belt enforcement seriously. Writing a citation to an unbuckled motorist can be a life-saving reminder about the importance of buckling up. And it’s certainly preferable compared to delivering tragic news to a family that a loved one has been seriously injured or killed in a crash.

If you are driving or riding in a motor vehicle, buckling up is required by law and it’s a proven lifesaver. So whether you’re headed across town or across the state – during Click It or Ticket and throughout the year – always wear a safety belt.

Safety belts save lives and prevent serious injuries

• Consistent safety belt use is the single most effective way to protect people from being ejected from a vehicle or thrown around violently inside it during a crash and possibly hitting another vehicle occupant with massive force.

More people are buckling up but improvement is still needed

• Wisconsin’s safety belt use rate is approximately 88.4% – an all-time high for the state. Still, this lags behind the national average of 90.1%.

• In 2016, nearly half (47%) of the drivers and passengers killed in Wisconsin traffic crashes were not wearing safety belts.

Lack of safety belts use endangers teens

• Traffic crashes are the leading cause of death for teens and young adults nationwide.

• Teens are needlessly killed or injured in large part because of a lack of safety belt use combined with inexperience behind the wheel and dangerous driving behavior.

Economic costs of not using safety belts

• Motorists who are hurt or killed in traffic crashes because they didn’t buckle up create tremendous economic losses, such as medical expenses. The rest of society pays for nearly 75% of these economic losses through higher insurance premiums, taxes, and other public funding, according to the National Transportation Safety Board.

• Economic losses from traffic fatalities and injuries in Wisconsin totaled about $2.5 billion in 2015, according to the Wisconsin DOT.