Vehicle crashes are the leading cause of deaths among teenagers, but law enforcement officials said they want to change that.
The Texas Department of Transportation’s campaign, “Teen Click It or Ticket,” urges teens to wear their seat belts when in a vehicle.
In 2018, of the 264 teen drivers and passengers killed in car crashes in Texas, 111 were unrestrained, according to TxDOT.
“For teens, getting a driver’s license is a rite of passage, but when they start driving they aren’t thinking about how their lack of experience places them at greater risk of getting in a crash,” TxDOT Executive Director James Bass said. “Tragedy can strike in an instant, which is why we hope all parents, teachers and other influencers are urging teens to buckle up each and every time no matter how short the trip may be.”
The campaign will reach out to Texas teens through TV, radio, digital advertising and social media and features interactive events at six Texas high schools, a virtual reality game and an augmented reality experience to share the campaign’s safety message in a highly engaging manner. Students will also see a mangled truck from a rollover crash where two teens were able to walk away with only minor scratches thanks to wearing their seat belts, according to TxDOT.
Mike McElroy, Cleburne ISD driver’s education teacher, said it’s not only important to teach beginning drivers to buckle up but also how to property wear their seat belt.
“We demonstrate in class how to correctly wear the seat belt, including the shoulder harness,” McElroy said. “The seat belt grabs you and locks you in place, if it is worn and fastened properly. We stress to our students that all occupants in the car should be buckled in—the driver is responsible for everyone in the car.”
In his seven years as a driver’s ed teacher, he has seen little reluctance from students when it comes to “clicking” their seat belts.
“I’ve not heard or seen a lot from kids about not wanting to wear their seat belts in all the years I’ve been teaching,” he said. “One of the first things they do when they get in the car to drive is to buckle up, with little to no prompting from me. We just want them to remember that everyone in the car needs to be buckled up. We also teach the proper use and placement of car seats.”
The dangers of texting while driving is a big part of what he wants to drive home with his student learners when it comes to safety.
“I view texting as the modern day drunk driving,” he said. “If you are texting and driving you are risking the lives of everyone in the car and on the road. Putting a new driver in a car with a group of friends makes the odds for an accident to go way up. It takes a new driver five years to become an ‘average’ driver in gaining the techniques that come through experience. We want our students to learn as much as they can about driving skills and driving safely before they get out on the road.”
Texas law requires drivers and all passengers to wear a seat belt. Unbuckled drivers and passengers — even those in the back seat — face fine and fees up to $200.
Seat belts prevent drivers and passengers from getting ejected from a vehicle, which is almost always deadly, TxDOT officials said. Wearing a seat belt reduces the risk of dying in a crash by 45 percent. That number jumps to 60 percent for pickup truck crashes.
People walk away from bad crashes every day because they wore a seat belt, Cleburne Police Sgt. Kelly Summey said.
“Teens, specifically, should make buckling their seat belt a part of a routine every time they get into a vehicle, not just as the driver but when they are the passenger, also,” Summey said. “The forces generated by a traffic crash that injure the body can be greatly reduced by just wearing a seat belt. You can help reduce distracted driving as a passenger.
“Allow the driver to keep eyes on the road at all times. Don’t allow yourself to BE the distraction.”
The campaign is a key component of #EndTheStreakTX, a broader social media and word-of-mouth effort that encourages drivers to make safer choices while behind the wheel: like wearing a seat belt, driving the speed limit and never driving after drinking or doing drugs.
Nov. 7, 2000 was the last deathless day on Texas roadways, according to TxDOT. #EndTheStreakTX asks all Texans to commit to driving safely to help end the streak of daily deaths on Texas roadways.