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CaliforniaÕs current seat belt use rate of 96.2 percent is at an all-time high, but that still leaves nearly 1 million people who are not buckling up. (photo by Photo Courtesy Santa Monica History Museum)

CITYWIDE — Santa Monica police will be searching high and low for drivers and passengers not wearing their seat belts as part of an enforcement campaign — “Click it or Ticket,” authorities said Monday.

The mobilization will take place from May 23 to June 5.

The fines and fees for adults who fail to wear their seat belts is a minimum of $142, police said. For children under 16, the fine jumps to $445 for a first offense.

“Many traffic deaths can be prevented if more motorists simply start wearing their seat belts,” said SMPD Chief Tim Jackman. “Law enforcement throughout the area will be looking for seat belt violators, day and night. Citations will be issued without warning.

“It’s not just about avoiding a costly ticket,” Jackman added, “it’s about keeping the ones you care about alive. Remember to buckle up on every trip, day and night.”

Properly restrained drivers, passengers and children have a 50 percent better chance of surviving a crash than those who are not buckled up. Those ejected from vehicles in crashes or rollovers are up to 35 times more likely to die than those restrained, authorities said. In 2009 alone seat belts saved approximately 12,713 lives nationwide. In California, it is estimated that 320 people who were killed in 2009 would be alive today if they had been wearing seat belts.

California’s current seat belt use rate of 96.2 percent is at an all-time high, but that still leaves nearly 1 million people who are not buckling up, putting their lives at risk every time they get into the car, said Christopher Murphy, director of the state’s Office of Traffic Safety. The Click it or Ticket campaign is credited with increasing the state’s adult seat belt usage rate from 92.5 percent in 2005 to 96.2 percent in 2010.

“We are very proud of California’s seat belt and child safety seat use rates,” Murphy said. “However, with nearly 1 million motorists still not buckling up, there is much work to do. Reaching the last 4 percent of motorists is crucial to reaching our goal of zero deaths.”

More than 600 Click it or Ticket highway signs, which have been up since 2005, have been updated to reflect the “minimum $142” message, reminding motorists that failing to buckle up is costly.

Over 140 local law enforcement agencies statewide and the California Highway Patrol will be participating in the mobilization. Funding is provided by a grant from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

kevinh@www.smdp.com

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