Texas drivers and passengers should always wear their seat belts or be ready to face the consequences. That’s the message that state, county and local law enforcement will be sending this May, as they buckle down on all motorists not buckling up — but including a special focus on teens.

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), teenage drivers and passengers still have not gotten the message about the importance of wearing a safety belt and are the least likely group to buckle up. In Texas, half of the 338 teen passenger vehicle occupants, ages 16-20, killed in motor vehicle crashes in 2007 were unrestrained, where restraint use was known, at the time of the fatal crash. In fact, motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for 15- to 20-year-olds in America.

Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) has teamed up with NHSTA to reach Texas teens in order to change this behavior and save lives. In McAllen, TxDOT will host a teen awareness event at McAllen High School on April 24 through the “Click It or Ticket” Teen campaign. TxDOT will demonstrate a rollover crash simulation and will also feature the actual wreckage from a teen driver’s recent crash in Bell County and tell his incredible safety belt story.

“Too many of our youngest drivers and passengers still take the attitude that a serious crash will never happen to them, but these tragedies can and do happen all the time,” Corporal Mike Zamora said. “Teens may be getting ready for summer break, but our officers will be giving no breaks to people caught not wearing their safety belts. We hope this event will serve as an eye-opening reminder to these teens about the consequences of their actions behind the wheel.”

That’s why in an effort to save more lives, beginning May 11, Hidalgo area law enforcement is joining with other State and local law enforcement agencies throughout Texas to step up safety belt enforcement during May with increased patrols and other special Click It or Ticket efforts to help ensure that more people —especially teens— always wear their safety belts when driving or riding in a motor vehicle. NHTSA research shows that 14.3 percent of 15-19 year olds in Texas do not buckle up.

Before the law enforcement blitz begins, officers will be rewarding those teens “seen” wearing their safety belts. Starting April 20, law enforcement will be handing out incentives for young drivers using their safety belts — including coupons for free food from area fast food restaurants and cards with information about free music downloads available on www.clickitorticketmusic.com. Visitors to the Web site can watch a rollover simulation video and download free songs from thirteen Texas artists including Paul Wall, Blue October, Bowling For Soup and Corey Morrow.

Regular safety belt use is the single most effective way to protect people and to reduce fatalities in motor vehicle crashes. Nationally, of the passenger vehicle occupants involved in a fatal crash in 2007, the 72 percent that were restrained survived the crash.

“Unfortunately too many Texas motorists still need a tough reminder that wearing a safety belt is the absolute best way to protect themselves during a crash, so our officers are going to be out in force cracking down on those who are not buckled up,” said Corporal Mike Zamora. “To help save more lives on Texas’ roadways, we’re going to make sure both teens and adults understand that wearing your safety belt costs you nothing, but not wearing it could cost you a ticket, or worse - your life,” he said. “No more exceptions. No more excuses. We want all drivers and passengers to always remember to buckle up day and night. ”

For more information on Click It or Ticket, please visit www.clickitorticketmusic.com.