In June 2002, when the primary seat belt law went into effect, approximately 82 percent of Washington drivers wore seat belts. Today, we celebrate a seat belt use of 97.5 percent. This marks the seventh consecutive year of more than 95 percent. During the past ten years, it is estimated that nearly 1,010 lives were saved due to increases in seat belt use. After the adoption of the Click it or Ticket project, the number of traffic deaths dropped from 658 in 2002 to 455 in 2011 (preliminary data).

“Ten years ago we hoped that we could make an impact on the number of traffic fatalities if we could increase seat belt use,” said Dr. Beth Ebel, Director of the Harborview Injury Prevention and Research Center and University of Washington Associate Professor of Pediatrics. “Now we have one of the highest seat belt use rates in the nation. We have prevented thousands of serious injuries and deaths. Buckling up is the routine.”

Studies show seat belt use decreases the chance of dying in a crash by 60 percent and reduces the risk of head injury by 80 percent. That’s why between May 21 and June 3, motorists in Yakima County can expect to see law enforcement patrolling city and county roadways in search of unbuckled drivers and passengers. The Grandview, Sunnyside, Union Gap and Yakima Police Departments, the Yakima County Sheriff’s Office and the Washington State Patrol will all be teaming up and participating in these extra patrols, with the support of the Yakima County Target Zero Traffic Safety Task Force.

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