By CHRIS AGEE
The Texas Department of Transportation is ramping up its campaign to increase seatbelt use among Texas teens.
According to TxDOT data, nearly half of all teens between the ages of 15 and 20 killed in automobile crashes in 2011 were not wearing a safety belt at the time of the crash.
John Barton, TxDOT deputy executive director, explained the two main focuses of the initiative.
"Whether you're in the front or back of the vehicle, our message is simple," he said. "Seat belts save lives and if you don't click it, you will get a ticket."
The agency's "Teen Click It or Ticket" campaign is aimed at reaching new teen drivers who are less likely to buckle up than their older counterparts. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found teens are involved in three times more fatal crashes than any other group of drivers.
Included in TxDOT's campaign, currently in its fourth year, is an interactive website offering quizzes, testimonies and the chance to win prizes.
Those interested in learning more about the initiative can visit seatbeltsrock.com.
Local law enforcement officials agree young drivers and passengers need to learn the potential dangers associated with failure to wear a safety belt.
"It's very important," said Department of Public Safety Sgt. Jeffrey Poole. "It saves lives."
Each year, TxDOT partners with high schools across the state to provide educational materials and the traveling display of a pickup truck involved in a rollover crash with two teen occupants. Though the vehicle was mangled in the crash, both boys survived, in part because of their seat belt usage.