WASHINGTON -- The Bush administration announced a nationwide campaign on Monday to increase seat belt use among teens and young adults, the group least likely to buckle up and most likely to die in a traffic crash.
The $25 million initiative will combine tougher law enforcement with radio and TV advertisements.
"Teens and young adults are killed at far higher rates in crashes because they are caught in a lethal intersection of inexperience, risk taking and low seat-belt use," Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta said in a news conference. "These tragedies are predictable and therefore preventable."
Police plan to set up checkpoints and patrol roads near schools and other areas frequented by teens, including shopping malls.
Government figures show that nearly 5,900 teens and young adults ages 16 to 20 died in traffic crashes in 2002. Of the 42,850 traffic deaths in 2002, roughly 60 percent were not wearing seat belts, safety statistics show.
"Despite years of effort, safety belt use in this country stands at just 75 percent and even lower at 69 percent among teens and young adults," said Jeffrey Runge, administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
"The only proven way to achieve significant increases in seat belt use is through strong laws and highly visible enforcement of those laws. So today we are putting people on notice to 'click it' or expect a ticket," Runge said.
Pilot tests of more aggressive enforcement in 20 states produced higher rates of seat belt use, the government said. In some cases the average increase was more than 8 percent. Every 1 percent increase in belt use represents 2.8 million more people buckling up and 250 fewer highway deaths, safety figures show.
Drivers and their passengers can be stopped and ticketed for not wearing safety belts in 18 states and the District of Columbia. In 31 other states tickets can be issued for seat belt violations but only if a motorist is stopped for another reason.
New Hampshire is the only state without an adult seat belt law.