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Thanksgiving can bring dangerous driving conditions

Last year’s long Thanksgiving break was one of the most dangerous holidays of the year on Louisiana roadways. This year, the Louisiana Highway Safety Commission is coordinating a statewide Click It or Ticket campaign over the extended Thanksgiving holiday aimed at saving lives by convincing more motorists to buckle up.

In 2013, during the five-day Thanksgiving holiday, there were 409 fatal and injury crashes that killed five and injured 689 motorists in Louisiana.

Louisiana Highway Safety Commission Executive Director Lt. Col. John LeBlanc said the commission is providing grants to 50 state and local law enforcement agencies as part of Click it or Ticket, a nationwide high-visibility seat belt enforcement and public information campaign.

“The Thanksgiving holiday is one of the busiest for travel. More vehicles mean a greater chance of accidents. That’s why it’s so important for all motorists to buckle up,” said LeBlanc. “When used properly, seat belts reduce the risk of fatal injury to front seat passengers by 45 percent. There’s no simpler or more effective way to protect yourself in the event of a crash.”

Louisiana law requires all passengers to use seat belts, including those in rear seats. Because Louisiana’s seat belt law is a “primary enforcement” law, officers can stop and ticket people they observe violating the law.

The Click it or Ticket campaign is one tool Louisiana officials have used to inform and enforce the law. Officials introduced the campaign in Louisiana in 2003.

Over the years, Louisiana’s seat belt use has increased significantly, a fact that LeBlanc attributes to aggressive law enforcement and the success of the Click it or Ticket campaign.

A 2014 observational survey found that seat belt use reached a record high in Louisiana, with 82.5 percent of drivers and front-seat passengers buckling up. However, despite a series of back-to-back annual increases, males, African Americans and pickup truck occupants buckled up at rates below the state average.

“We take seat belt use very seriously. Last year, more than half of the people killed in Louisiana crashes were not wearing seat belts,” LeBlanc said. “Click it or Ticket gives us the opportunity to remind motorists of the consequences of not buckling up. If officers see you violating the seat belt law, they will stop and ticket you.”

More facts about Louisiana seat belt use:

• Seat belt use in Louisiana has increased 8.0 percentage points over the last four years.

• Louisiana continues to lag behind the national seat belt rate of 87 percent.

• In 2013, 58 percent of people killed in Louisiana crashes were not wearing seat belts.