Santa Monica police officers kicked off the summer Click It or Ticket seat belt enforcement campaign Monday, meaning more cops will be on the lookout for those who are not buckled up when driving.

The SMPD joins other state and local law enforcement agencies in an effort to help save lives. According to public safety officials, seat belts are the most effective life-saving equipment inside a vehicle.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), in 2010 nationally, 61 percent of the 10,647 passenger vehicle occupants who were killed in traffic collisions overnight were not wearing their seat belts at the time of the fatal collisions, compared to 42 percent during the daytime hours.

“Too many drivers and passengers on the road at night are not wearing their seat belts, and it all too often ends in tragedy,” said SMPD Lt. Jay Trisler. “Our goal is to save more lives, so the Santa Monica Police Department will be out enforcing seat belt laws around the clock.”

Seat belt use saves thousands of lives across America each year with NHTSA statistics showing that in 2010 alone, seat belts saved an estimated 12,546 lives nationwide. Yet, too many motorists may need a tough reminder. In 2010, 22,187 vehicle occupants were killed in motor vehicle collisions, according to NHTSA, and 51 percent of them were not wearing seat belts at the time of the fatal collision.

Younger motorists and men are at particular risk. Data shows that among teen and young adult motorists and their passengers in 2010, ages 18-34, who were killed in traffic collisions, 61 percent were not buckled up at the time of the collision — the highest percentage of any age group. The number jumps to 66 percent when just men in this age group are included.

While this year’s Click It or Ticket enforcement mobilization runs from May 21 through June 3, motorists should know that officers are out enforcing seat belt laws year-round.

The total cost for a first-time ticket is at least $142.

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