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The Lufkin News

WHITE: Increasing teen safety on Texas highways

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Kathi White

Posted: Thursday, February 14, 2013 1:15 am

Teenagers and children of all ages are near and dear to my heart. So I find it fitting on this Valentine’s Day to give them special attention. Actually, the Texas Department of Transportation has chosen the month of February to conduct its Teen Click It or Ticket campaign to reach out to teens and their parents on the importance of buckling up.

My youngest at age 18 will be graduating high school in May and I want to see him and his teenaged classmates walk across that stage. I’m hopeful they will read this and be reminded of just how special they are to us — parents, friends, communities, and TxDOT. As parents, we hope that our teens will remember all that we’ve tried to instill in them. We hope they realize that while we will always be there for them, we won’t always be by their sides reminding them not to drink and drive, to put down the cell phone — no texting or talking while driving, and always put on that seat belt.

On this Valentine’s Day, TxDOT is encouraging teen drivers, especially new drivers, to love their lives and buckle up. Know that you are not invincible. Statistically, teens are less likely to buckle up than adults. Nationally, motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of teen deaths.

Teen Click It or Ticket, in its third year, partners with more than 750 high schools reaching some 800,000 teenagers across the state. Local area participants include Cushing, Garrison, Hudson, Lufkin, Nacogdoches, San Augustine and Woden high schools. Schools are provided educational materials that allow students to help spread the message to their peers.

The campaign goal is simple: to increase the use of safety belts among teens. TxDOT traffic safety personnel are also visiting schools and participating in community events to drive the much needed message home.

Sadly, nearly half of the 295 teen occupants, ages 15-20, who died in motor vehicle crashes in Texas in 2011 were not wearing their safety belts. That same year, unrestrained teen occupants suffered fatal or serious injuries in 1,074 vehicle crashes (TxDOT). According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), teens are involved in three times as many fatal crashes as all other drivers.

TxDOT and its traffic safety partners conduct numerous campaigns to educate the traveling public on the importance of buckling up but still see great numbers of people killed or injured in crashes who were not restrained. State law requires every occupant in vehicles to buckle up, whether in the front or back seat. Every death on a Texas highway is devastating to TxDOT so the safety initiatives continue.

During Teen Click It or Ticket, and year round, we encourage young people to face reality and buckle up to avoid getting a ticket. We enlist parents to help remind these young drivers and passengers to make the right choice and obey the rules of the road because the real consequence is much greater than a ticket. It’s a matter of life and death, so Buckle Up!

Kathi White is the public information officer with TxDOT office. Her email address is Kathi.White@txdot.gov.

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