Northwest NEWS

October 21, 2002


Washington state leads nation in seat belt usage

Holiday traffic safety campaign will target drunken drivers
   From Office of the Governor
   OLYMPIA - According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Washington has the highest seat belt use rate in the country at 93 percent, up more than 12 percent since May 2002. The national seat belt use rate is 75 percent.
   This increase has resulted in 22 saved lives, according to Washington Traffic Safety Commission estimates. The number of traffic deaths from May 2002 through September was 289, compared with the previous 13-year average of 311 for that time period.
   The increase in seat belt use is attributed to seat belt enforcement legislation, "Click it or Ticket," a media and enforcement campaign managed by the Washington Traffic Safety Commission which went into effect in June.
   The "Click it or Ticket" campaign was a collaborative effort between the commission and local, regional and state law enforcement agencies.
   Before these recent state efforts, seat belt usage in Washington had been around 82 percent for six years running.
   "Our highly successful seat belt campaign has saved two dozen lives and thousands of state and local taxpayer dollars," Gov. Gary Locke said.
   "We're pleased that the public has responded to the stepped up enforcement and simple message that seat belts save lives."
   Building on the success of the "Click it or Ticket" campaign, Locke recently unveiled a new holiday driver outreach program titled “Drive Hammered, Get Nailed."
   This traffic safety message will target drunken drivers and promote a safer holiday season for everyone using state roads.
   Impaired driving is the single largest cause of fatality collisions in Washington.
   "We need to improve the safety of our roads, and this campaign will help in a targeted way," Locke said.
   John Moffat, director of the Washington Traffic Safety Commission, said, "Drunken driving is a serious issue during the holiday season. We believe this new campaign, like the previous one, will get the message out that you should not drive impaired and, if you do, you will be arrested."
   The new statewide campaign will feature public service announcements by local police chiefs, sheriffs and State Patrol captains. The radio component will begin airing Nov. 11 and other advertising will include banners, posters, fliers and billboards.
   "We are making a conscious effort to find and stop impaired drivers. Drunken drivers are not just a threat to themselves but a threat to our families, friends and children," said State Patrol Chief Ronal Serpas.
   Increased state law enforcement patrols targeting drunken driving will begin Nov. 1 and run through Jan. 1. The program will be managed by the Washington Traffic Safety Commission.