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Scenes from The University of Rhode Island

URI police involved in national 'Click It or Ticket' seat belt campaign

Media Contact: Dave Lavallee, 401-874-5862

KINGSTON, R.I. -- May 25, 2004 -- Students, faculty, staff and visitors are being encouraged to buckle up when driving at the University of Rhode Island as campus police launch participation in the national campaign, "Click It or Ticket."

"If you won't buckle up to save your life, then buckle up to save yourself a ticket," said Campus Police Lt. Michael Novak.

URI is joining more than 13,000 law enforcement agencies and other campus and university safety offices in a nationwide crack down on seat belt law violators. The message to teens and young adults will be seen and heard in television and radio ads, across college campuses, over public high school public address systems, and through enforcement in locations where young people congregate such as schools and sporting events.

"We want to make sure those who will be driving to campus for summer school, our camps for youngsters, sporting events and festivals are buckling their seat belts," Novak said.

While the two week enforcement wave starts today and runs through June 6, Novak said campus officers will continue their vigilance when the new semester begins in the fall.

"We find that fewer than 50 percent of drivers on college campuses buckle up," Novak said. "That may be because someone driving from Flagg Road to the Mackal Field House might not feel like buckling up because it is such a short trip.

"If a motorist is stopped for speeding or other infractions on campus and the seat belts are not in use, they will be issued a ticket," Novak said.

The two-week program is being supported by more than $30 million in Congressionally-funded national and state advertising. Last year, the national Click It or Ticket push, with paid advertising, increased seat belt use by four percentage points to 79 percent, the highest rate ever recorded.

"The only proven way to get significant increases in belt use among young people and ultimately save lives, is through high visibility enforcement, including targeted and intense advertising to alert people to the enforcement," Novak said. "Teens and young adults are killed at far higher rates in crashes because they are caught in a lethal intersection of inexperience, risk taking and low safety belt use. These tragedies are predictable and therefore preventable, using proven techniques like high visibility enforcement mobilizations."

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 4,530 teens, ages 16-19, died and some 320,000 more were seriously injured in traffic crashes in 2002. And while young drivers ages 15 to 20 account for 6.6 percent of licensed drivers (12.6 million), they represented 14 percent of all drivers involved in fatal crashes and 16 percent (1,862,000) of police reported crashes in 2001.

"While national seat belt use stands at 79 percent, we know the remaining 21 percent who don't wear their seat belts are disproportionately teens and young men ages 18 to 34. Safety belt use for teens and young adults ages 16 to 24 is more like 69 percent and continues to lag behind the rest of the population," Novak said.

For Further Information: Officer Michael Novak401-874-2121