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If you're driving this, the state is checking you out this weekend

Police are conducting their annual Click it or Ticket campaign through Memorial Day Weekend. Police throughout the Mid-Columbia are going to be keeping an eye out for people not wearing their seat belts.
Police are conducting their annual Click it or Ticket campaign through Memorial Day Weekend. Police throughout the Mid-Columbia are going to be keeping an eye out for people not wearing their seat belts. Tri-City Herald

In one out of every five car crash deaths in Washington, the person wasn't buckled up.

They're among the 5 percent of Washington drivers who don't buckle up that the state Traffic Safety Commission wants to reach as part of its annual "Click It or Ticket" campaign.

They tend to fall in one of two groups that the commission has found are the most stubborn about seat belt use — men in pickup trucks and teenagers.

To figure that out, the state recently did a study that sent observers onto urban and rural roads to count the number of people wearing their seat belts.

Mid-Columbians tend to do better than many others in the state, said Shelly Baldwin, the commission's legislative and media director.

About 94 percent of Franklin County drivers and 93 percent of Benton County drivers were belted in.

In the past year, Benton County had one death and Franklin County had two people die who were unbuckled.

One of the most recent was a corrections officer who died on a city street after crashing his car into a tree, fence and light pole.

KPD Fatal investigation (1).JPG
Kennewick police officers investigate the fatal crash on Creekstone Drive in Kennewick that killed Christopher Sotelo. The corrections officer was not wearing his seat belt at the time. File Tri-City Herald

The commission has led the campaign for 17 years, and Baldwin said it's important to keep trying to reach the last 5 percent, Baldwin said.

"They're highly over represented in traffic crashes," Baldwin said.

To get to their attention, the commission first identified them — mostly older men in pickups and teens, especially if they're in a vehicle with other teens.

And the agency has budgeted $263,000 for TV, radio and online campaigns, with a focus on reaching those groups, Baldwin said.

The state has spent the same amount of money on outreach as is does on enforcement patrols, Baldwin said.

Police, sheriff's officials and the Washington State Patrol are conducting enforcement patrols through Memorial Day weekend. If you're caught not wearing a seat belt, you could get a $136 ticket.

"It's not about a gotcha," she said. "We're trying to get people to change their habits. It would be great if we had a lot of people out there looking and not finding anyone because they're all buckled up. That's our goal."

Cameron Probert: 509-582-1402; Twitter: @cameroncprobert
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