(ATLANTA) – Georgia State Troopers and officers with the Georgia Department of Public Safety Motor Carrier Compliance Division and Capitol Police Services Unit will join their law enforcement counterparts across the United States beginning this Monday for Operation Click It or Ticket.  The two-week, high-visibility seat belt enforcement effort will target motorists who are not wearing their seat belts or properly restraining children.

Colonel Bill Hitchens, Commissioner of the Georgia Department of Public Safety, said seat belt enforcement has proven to save lives.  "Through enforcement and education, more people are using seat belts than ever before and that has translated to more lives saved when traffic crashes occur," he said.  "But, far too many people are still not buckling up or taking the time to properly restrain children."

Last year during the 102-hour Thanksgiving holiday travel period, the Georgia State Patrol investigated 10 fatal crashes between 6 p.m. Wednesday and midnight the following Sunday.  "Of the 10 fatal crashes troopers investigated, six of the people killed were not wearing seat belts; one crash victim was a motorcyclist; and use could not be determined in one crash," the Commissioner noted.

Nationally, nighttime is the worst for seat belt use, according to statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).  Of the 231 traffic deaths in crashes occurring at night during the Thanksgiving holiday period in 2008, 67 percent were not wearing seat belts.

Colonel Hitchens said troopers will be keeping a close watch for seat belt violations during patrols over the next two weeks and MCCD officers will be watching for seat belt violations by drivers of commercial motor vehicles as well.  "Federal regulations require safety belt use at all times in a commercial motor vehicle," he said.

"Wearing a seat belt costs you nothing, and may save your life or protect you from a serious, possibly life-altering injury," Colonel Hitchens said.  "Not wearing a seat belt, especially during this Thanksgiving period, will definitely cost you a ticket at the very least."

Regular seat belt use is the single most effective way to protect people and reduce fatalities in motor vehicle crashes, according to NHTSA.  Research has shown that when lap and shoulder belts are used properly, the risk of fatal injury to front-seat passenger car occupants is reduced by 45 percent, and the risk of moderate to serious injury is reduced by 50 percent.