As summer kicks off, Rutherford County Sheriff's Office partners with the Tennessee Highway Safety Office to remind motorists to "Click It or Ticket."
From May 22 to June 4, participating agencies across the state will increase seat belt enforcement as part of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's nationwide mobilization.
Sheriff Mike Fitzhugh said eight people who died in traffic crashes last year in Rutherford County were not wearing a seat belt or were not secured in a child restraint seat.
"To reduce deaths and injuries, we urge everyone to click your seat belts and secure your children in child restraint seats every time you drive," Fitzhugh said.
Tennessee's Integrated Traffic Analysis Network reported 349 people killed in Tennessee traffic crashes last year were not wearing a seat belt. This represents approximately 34 percent of the state's total traffic fatalities in 2016.
Although the state's average seat belt usage rate increased from 86.2 percent in 2015 to 88.95 percent in 2016, Tennessee is still nationally classified as a "low use" state. In 2017, the THSO strives to change this by achieving 90 percent or higher.
"Our goal is to prevent fatalities and keep the roadways safe," said Vic Donoho, director of the THSO. "We ask every Tennessean to buckle up, every trip, every time."
According to the NHTSA, nearly half of the 22,441 passenger vehicle occupants killed in crashes in 2015 were unrestrained. At night from 6 p.m. to 5:59 a.m., that number soared to 57 percent of those killed.
The primary focus of the "Click It or Ticket" campaign is nighttime enforcement. Participating agencies will be taking a no-excuses approach to seat belt law enforcement. In Tennessee, the maximum penalty for a seat belt violation is $50.
For more information about seat belt safety or the THSO, visit www.tntrafficsafety.org.