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As it does every year at the start of the holiday season, the Virginia law enforcement community is stepping up its efforts to inform motorists about the lifesaving importance of seatbelts and warning that failure to use them will result in a traffic citation.

To understand the imperative of the “Click It or Ticket!” campaign, one only needs to consider the numbers. The commonwealth is reporting a 10 percent increase in unbelted fatalities – 283 this year compared to 258 in 2019 – and the numbers could grow with four more holiday travel season weeks to go. Surveys also show that 15 percent of Virginia motorist admit to not always buckling up even though they’re well aware of the risks of not doing so.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, seatbelt users are 45 percent less likely to be fatally injured in a crash. Conversely, a reported 79 percent of people ejected from a vehicle because they were not wearing safety restraints during an accident are killed.

“As long as Virginians continue to lose their lives on our roadways because they are not wearing their seatbelts, we still have work to do,” said Secretary of Transportation Shannon Valentine. “Look at the statistics – wearing a seatbelt is simple, effective and can save your life.”

In recent years, more than half of the people who died in Virginia crashes in vehicles equipped with safety restraints were not using them. In 2016, 304 unrestrained drivers or passengers were killed in Virginia crashes. There were 310 unrestrained fatalities in 2015; in 2014, there were 256.

It is equally important to ensure children are properly secured in an age-appropriate child safety seat. According to the NHTSA, they reduce the risk of fatal injury for infants by 71 percent in passenger cars. For toddlers, the risk is reduced by 54 percent. The website safekids.org provides a lot more information and educational videos for parents and their kids, extending up into the teen years.

Grownups are encouraged to check out the national seatbelt awareness video available at www.youtube.com/watch?v=QnVHwohz3W0. It illustrates the significant forces involved in a crash and the impact those forces can have on the body when one is not safely secured with a seatbelt.

“What ‘Click It or Ticket!’ all boils down to is that we need your help to reach the goal of 100 percent seatbelt usage in Virginia,” summed up DMV Commissioner Richard D. Holcomb, the governor’s highway safety representative. “Always buckle up and make sure everyone in your vehicle is properly secured. It only takes a second, and it very well may save your life or that of someone you love.

Seatbelts are something “we can all be thankful for this holiday season – every single time we get into a vehicle,” Holcomb said. “We want all Virginians to enjoy a happy, healthy and safe holiday season. Like a face covering is one of several steps we take to keep our families safe from COVID-19, a seatbelt is a vital part of your protection system behind the wheel. The simple act of buckling up with a quick click has been proven to reduce injuries and save lives if a crash occurs. Make it a routine for everyone in your family.”