Ten years ago, it became mandatory in Washington to buckle up or get a ticket.
The law's purpose is to save lives, and officials say in that time, 1,010 lives have been saved from increased seat belt use.
A combination of enforcement and education is credited for the increase -- and law enforcement officers in the Tri-Cities are getting prepared for another education and enforcement campaign.
This year's Click It or Ticket campaign starts Monday and continues through June 3.
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Extra patrols will be conducted by the Kennewick and Pasco police departments, Franklin County Sheriff's Office and Washington State Patrol.
"This is just us doing extra patrols to focus on (seat belt violations)," said state patrol Sgt. Debbie Wilson. "We're looking for this violation all the time -- every day or night."
Drivers or passengers caught not wearing their seat belt will get a $124 ticket.
"It's just easier to buckle up," she said.
The seat belt law became a primary offense in 2002, meaning officers could stop motorists for not using restraints. Statewide, officials say about 82 percent of drivers wore seat belts then. Now the state has a seat belt use rate of 97.5 percent.
In Franklin County, 87.3 percent of drivers were observed using their seat belts, according to data provided to the Herald. In 2011, that rate was 99.1 percent.
The observed usage rates were determined by people looking for seat belt use in various locations throughout a county. There is no data for Benton County.
Traffic safety officials say the number of traffic deaths dropped from 658 a decade ago, to 455 in 2011.
"Ten years ago, we hoped that we could make an impact on the number of traffic fatalities if we could increase seat belt use," said Dr. Beth Ebel, director of the Harborview Injury Prevention and Research Center and a University of Washington associate professor of pediatrics, in a news release. "Now we have one of the highest seat belt use rates in the nation.
"We have prevented thousands of serious injuries and deaths. Buckling up is the routine."
Studies have shown that using seat belts decreases the chance of dying in a crash by 60 percent and reduces the risk of head injury by 80 percent, traffic safety officials said.
Seat belt citations also have increased during the past 10 years, with 772 being issued in Benton and Franklin counties in 2002 and 3,663 issues in both counties last year.
"The point is not to write seat belt citations, but to encourage drivers to buckle up," said Darrin T. Grondel, director of the Washington Traffic Safety Commission, in a news release. "We estimate that for every traffic death avoided, it's estimated four serious injuries are avoided, and seat belt use can help us achieve that."
The extra patrols planned in the Tri-Cities are supported by the Benton-Franklin Traffic Safety Task Force.