It’s a steep price to pay

Published 6:45 pm Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Warm weather has arrived and more people are out and about, especially on the roadways.

So are more uniformed officers looking for non-seat-belt-wearing drivers and passengers.

Monday, the North Carolina State Highway Patrol launched its “Click It or Ticket” campaign, with a rather memorable demonstration. In this demonstration, two Dodge Chargers hooked to a pully system crashed head-on at 45 mph. Both vehicles were totaled.

That’s not unexpected. But the example was meant to show viewers that even at a not-so-fast speed, the impact on bodies can be fatal.

According to the North Carolina Department of Transportation, an unbelted occupant of a vehicle is twice as likely to die in a collision than someone wearing one. Sadly, in Beaufort County, there’s been at least two such deaths in recent months.

While North Carolina’s seat belt laws have been around since 1986, some people might not be aware that the law has changed. It used to be that only the front and passenger seat occupants were required to wear seat belts. Now all occupants of a vehicle, with very few exceptions, must click it or risk a ticket.

According to the NCDOT, the reasoning behind this is “Unbelted backseat riders become human torpedoes in a collision and a threat to the safety of front seat occupants even if they are wearing their seat belts.”

The statistics work out to 52% of unbelted backseat riders are killed during crashes.

Wearing a seat belt — in the front, passenger or back seats — saves lives, certainly. It also saves money. In 2015, more than 108,000 seatbelt violations were given out in the state of North Carolina. Back in 1986, when seat belts first became mandatory, a ticket for a seat belt violation was a flat cost of $25. That changed awhile back. It’s still a $25 ticket, but now court fees are tacked onto that. A ticket for not wearing your seatbelt will cost you a whopping $179 now.

That’s a steep price — but not as steep as a loss of life.

So, this summer, click it. An make sure your passengers do too.