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Our View: Buckle up this weekend

Published: Wednesday, May 21, 2014 5:30 a.m. CDT

For many people, buckling up when they get in the car has become routine.

At least, it is when they’re in the front seats.

The Illinois Department of Transportation found in a 2013 observational survey that more than 93 percent of drivers and front-seat passengers were wearing their seat belts. But more than one in five backseat passengers were not.

Many people remember the days when the law didn’t require people to wear their seat belts in a vehicle’s rear seats. But those days are gone, and have been for more than two years. Since 2012, Illinois law has required all people riding in vehicles to wear seat belts.

Officials say it’s with good reason: In 2012, backseat passengers in Illinois accounted for 46 fatalities and over 5,000 injuries. Out of those 46 fatalities, 30 of them were not wearing their seat belt, according to a police news release.

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, using a lap and shoulder belt reduces the risk of fatal injury by 60 percent for people in a sport-utility vehicle, a van or a pickup, and by 45 percent in a car.

This month, local police will be on the lookout for people who are not wearing their seat belts, no matter where they’re sitting in a moving vehicle. The initiative, called the Click It or Ticket campaign, includes many police departments across the state. The campaign continues through Memorial Day, one of the biggest summer travel holidays.

In Illinois, not only is wearing a seat belt mandatory, but a police officer can stop you if she sees you’re not wearing one, and will write you a $25 citation. Also, all children under 8 years old must have a safety seat, beginning with a rear-facing seat until age 2.

Our state has made great leaps in reducing traffic fatalities, and seat belt use has been an important part of that.

Remember to buckle up, no matter where you are in a vehicle – and not just this month, but all the time.

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