New seat belt laws and a contest for teens are among the features offered to reinforce this year’s Click It or Ticket campaign, according to Bev Kellner, Texas AgriLife Extension Service passenger safety specialist.

“The good news is that more people are buckling up in Texas. The bad news is there are still far too many killed in crashes due to lack of seat belt use,” Kellner said. “Despite gains in seat belt use for Texas, there are still some groups that do not wear their seat belts.”

Kellner explained that the new laws in Texas require adult vehicle occupants in all seating positions to be buckled up — both front and back. Previously, the law required only those in the front seat and those less than 17 years of age in the back seat to be buckled.

The new laws, which became effective last September, extend to 12- and 15-passenger vans as well, she said. For children, the new law requires children under age 8, unless taller than 4 foot 9 inches, to be in a child safety seat system.

According to Kellner, among the groups that have lower usage rates are 16-20 year olds, pickup truck drivers and passengers, and male drivers and passengers. Statistics from 2008 show that 56 percent of persons killed in crashes were unrestrained.

Because teens are among the groups prone to not use seat belts, the campaign offers them an opportunity to create a personalized video to share with friends. The video will follow a teen beginning a road trip. Teens who participate will be entered into a contest for prizes. More information is available at http://seatbeltsrock.com.

“Even with the new laws, more education is needed to convince some groups that seat belts save lives,” she said.

The key to surviving a crash is staying inside the vehicle, she said. Statistics from 2008 showed that 77 percent of occupants who were thrown from their vehicle were killed.

“Motorists can increase the odds of survival in a rollover crash in a light truck by nearly 80 percent by wearing their seat belts,” Kellner said. “Seat belts are credited with saving 255,115 lives from 1975 through 2008.”

The enforcement time for this year’s campaign by the Texas Department of Transportation is May 24 through June 6. During that time, extra law enforcement will be on the roads to enforce the new laws with the goal of saving lives.

“The goal is to get every Texan to always buckle up, on every trip, every time,” Kellner said. “A seat belt is your best defense against motor vehicle injuries and deaths.”