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Click It or Ticket: Celebrating two decades of saving lives

Several of the original supporters of Click It or Ticket celebrated the program's 20 years of success at the NC GHSP anniversary event in May.

Buckling up may be second nature for most of us these days, but that hasn't always been the case. Back in the early 1990s, even though there was a seatbelt law in place, many North Carolinians were not following it. For many, it took an enforcement and public education program called Click It or Ticket for the habit of wearing a seatbelt to catch on. This year the North Carolina Governor's Highway Safety Program (GHSP) celebrated the 20th anniversary of this life-saving campaign that began in 1993 as a part of the North Carolina Governor's Highway Safety Initiative (GHSI). The GHSI was a collaborative effort involving GHSP, North Carolina Department of Insurance, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, and the UNC Highway Safety Research Center (HSRC).

In the 20 years since the Click It or Ticket program was launched in North Carolina, the number of drivers and occupants wearing their seat belts has increased and the number of fatalities and injuries involving unbelted passengers in the state has dropped dramatically. In 1992, the year before the campaign started, seat belt use was only about 63 percent and 2.5 percent of all drivers and occupants who were involved in crashes experienced either fatal or serious injuries. By 2011, seat belt use has increased to almost 90 percent and the fatal and serious injury rate for crash-involved drivers and occupants had decreased to only 0.54 percent.

"It isn't often that we take the time to look back, so being able to reflect on the approximately 1,500 lives that are saved each year by this program is truly a privilege," said David Harkey, director of HSRC at the Click It or Ticket 20 year anniversary celebration on May 21, 2013, in Raleigh. "Nine out of 10 adults buckle up today and are more likely to walk away from a crash because of it. I call that a success story."

North Carolina's program has been so successful it has become a model for the nation, and it's important to recognize that the program began close to home. Several researchers from HSRC were involved in Click It or Ticket from day one, from conception to implementation, watching it grow into the program it is today. Working with the GHSP, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, and local police and sheriff departments as well as other program partners, HSRC implemented and evaluated pilot Click It or Ticket programs in the Spring of 1993 in three North Carolina communities Haywood County, Elizabeth City and High Point which were then used as models for the launch of the initial statewide Click It or Ticket campaign in September.

"At that time we were hopeful that this public awareness campaign would encourage people in North Carolina to take the few extra seconds to buckle up and make it a habit," said Bill Hall, manager of the current HSRC occupant protection program and a founding member of the Click It or Ticket team. "Little did we know that even though it was developed to be a model for the nation, that Click It or Ticket would be adopted by nearly every state in the country in the next 10 years."

While Click It or Ticket has proven to be an overwhelmingly successful effort, the work to increase seat belt use to even higher levels continues to be important for the safety of North Carolinians.

"We credit the effectiveness of our Click It or Ticket campaign for dramatically reducing the number of crashes involving people who didn't buckle up," said Don Nail, director of GHSP. "But until every person in our state abides by the law, we'll continue to lead the way in seat belt safety awareness."

Nail continued to say the future of the program will target higher risk drivers who represent that last 10 percent. In order to target these drivers in future campaigns, Click It or Ticket will be focusing on night time enforcement.

To learn more about Click It or Ticket, visit: www.ncdot.gov/programs/ghsp.

The University of North Carolina Highway Safety Research Center
730 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd, Suite 300  |  Campus Box 3430  |  Chapel Hill, NC 27599-3430
Phone: 919.962.2203  |  Fax: 919.962.8710