With the pandemic entering into the seventh month, our highways continue to see less traffic than in pre-pandemic times. But do not let less crowded roads make you think that you can let your guard down on being a safe driver. Though the number of crashes has dropped, the risk of a fatal crash is actually higher.

The holiday season is coming up and if you are wondering what to wear for the holidays, wearing your seat belt will help ensure you arrive safely. During the 2018 Thanksgiving holiday weekend, nearly half of all passenger vehicle occupants killed in traffic crashes were unbuckled.

Taking those few seconds to buckle your children into their car seats, and making sure older children and adults are using seat belts is the most crucial step you can take to protect those you love in a crash. Those few seconds can save your family and friends from having to go through a needless tragedy.

Fortunately, most Texans now buckle up, but some groups of motorists continue not taking the message to heart by not consistently using their seat belts. Pickup truck drivers and their passengers are less likely to wear seat belts. And, unfortunately, according to Texas A&M Transportation Institute Surveys, in 2019 only 68.2% of children were riding correctly restrained in a car seat.

It is also important to make sure you wear your seat belt day or night and on short trips as well as long trips. Most crashes happen close to home and most fatal crashes happen at night! Going around the corner to the grocery store is not an excuse to take a chance on not buckling up. Skipping your seat belt at night is also a very dangerous idea.

This year’s Click It or Ticket campaign will include Thanksgiving and be a good reminder to make sure all of your passengers are buckled up. During this year’s Click It or Ticket campaign, officers will be out Nov. 16 through 29, enforcing the Texas seat belt laws not to increase citations, but to help save lives.

The “Click It or Ticket” initiative in Texas is estimated to have saved 6,234 lives, prevented more than 100,000 serious injuries, and saved more than $23.6 billion in related economic costs from 2002 to 2019. Texas law requires the driver and all passengers in a vehicle to be secured by a seat belt or child restraint. Unbuckled drivers and passengers, even those in the back seat, face fines and court costs of up to $200.

Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Family and Community Health Educator Lorie Stovall, Navarro County reminds drivers and passengers of these important safety tips.

• Children should ride in the back seat until they reach the age of 13. Until a child reaches age 13, their bones are not fully developed. Placing a child whose bones are not yet strong enough in the front seat, where there is the windshield, dashboard, and air bags, puts them at greater risk of injury or death during a crash.

• Pickup trucks, while big and strong, are twice as likely to rollover in a crash due to their higher center of gravity. Wearing a seat belt reduces the risk of dying in a crash up to 45% in a passenger vehicle and up to 60 percent in a pickup truck. It is important to always make sure that the driver and every passenger in a pickup truck is buckled up.

• Buckling up is not just for the daytime. Between 6 p.m. and 5:59 a.m. is when more crashes and fatalities happen.

• Unbuckled passengers are also dangerous to others in the vehicle. In the event of a crash, the unbuckled passenger becomes a large projectile flying around the vehicle, who can injure or kill other occupants in the vehicle — including those who are buckled up!

The single most effective thing you can do as a driver and passenger is to wear your seat belt and make sure that everyone in the vehicle buckles up! With the holiday season approaching and the stress of the pandemic still around, remember to buckle up on every trip, every time. If you love it, click it!

The members of Texas A&M AgriLife will provide equal opportunities in programs and activities, education, and employment to all persons regardless of race, color, sex, religion, national origin, age, disability, genetic information, veteran status, sexual orientation or gender identity and will strive to achieve full and equal employment opportunity throughout Texas A&M AgriLife.

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