- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 14, 2006

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Seat belt use is reaching record levels — so just who are the holdouts who fail to buckle up? Often they are young men who live in rural areas and drive pickup trucks, the government says.

About 48 million people do not regularly put on seat belts when they are on the road, a figure the government’s highway safety agency hopes to lower with an annual public education campaign ahead of the summer driving season.

The “Click It or Ticket” campaign involves checkpoints, patrols and advertisements to help enforce seat belt laws. It runs from next Monday through June 4.

The latest report on seat belt use by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says men account for 65 percent of the more than 31,000 people killed each year in passenger vehicles.

The report, being released today, found that 58 percent of people killed not wearing seat belts crashed along rural roads. Also:

• In crashes involving pickup trucks, about seven in 10 people who died were unbelted.

• More than six in 10 males ages 8 to 44 who were killed inside a passenger vehicle were not buckled up, compared with less than 40 percent of women in that age group.

• Among men 21 to 24, about two-thirds of those killed in vehicles were not wearing seat belts.

The agency said lap and shoulder safety belts reduce the risk of death for those in the front seat of passenger cars by 45 percent and the risk of moderate-to-critical injuries by 50 percent.

The fatality risk for front-seat motorists in sport utility vehicles, pickup trucks and vans who wear seat belts is reduced by 60 percent, and the risk of moderate-to-critical injuries is cut by 65 percent.

The public education campaign is using $31 million in state and federal grants for national and state ads that seek to attract young drivers who watch sporting events such as NASCAR and baseball.

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