AUSTIN, Texas - The Texas Department of Transportation is reporting a spike in deaths of Texans not wearing their seat belt in 2020.
TxDOT says that despite a drop in the number of traffic crashes last year, 2020 saw a 16 percent increase in deaths of unbuckled motorists. There were 1,073 fatalities in 2020 and 926 fatalities in 2019 due to people not wearing seat belts.
"This past year we have all been reminded of the simple acts we can take to protect our lives and those of our loved ones," said TxDOT executive director James Bass. "Wearing a seat belt is the most important step we can take to protect ourselves from serious injury or even death in a traffic crash. Instead of putting yourself and others in danger, remember: buckle up day and night, every rider, every ride."
Putting on a seat belt reduces the risk of dying by up to 45 percent for people in the front seat of passenger cars and up to 60 percent for people in pickup trucks, says TxDOT.
Research shows pickup truck drivers and passengers continue to lag in seat belt use. Close to half of all pickup drivers killed in crashes last year in Texas were not wearing a seat belt. Additionally, people driving at night wear their seat belts less often, says TxDOT, which reports that last year, 59% of all crashes in which unbuckled drivers or passengers died occurred at night.
To bring awareness to this and remind Texans to buckle it up, TxDOT is holding its annual Click It or Ticket campaign from May 24 to June 6.
As part of the campaign, Texas officers and deputies will step up enforcement of the state’s seat belt and child car seat laws. Texas law requires everyone in a vehicle to be properly secured in the front or back seat or face fines and fees up to $200.
Children younger than 8 years old must be restrained in a child safety seat or booster seat unless they are taller than 4 feet 9 inches. If a child isn’t secured, the driver faces fines of up to $250.
From 2002 to 2019, the Click It or Ticket initiative in Texas is estimated to have saved more than 6,000 lives, prevented more than 100,000 serious injuries, and resulted in $23.6 billion in economic savings, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.