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Isles post record rate of seat belt use in nation


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POSTED: Thursday, September 17, 2009

Hawaii's motorists are buckling up at a record-breaking level, achieving the highest rate for seat belt use in the nation. Ever.

During the “;Click It Or Ticket”; statewide campaign held in May, seat belt use increased to 97.9 percent—the highest any state in the country has ever achieved, according to state transportation officials.

State Transportation Director Brennon Morioka said Hawaii typically has been at the top of the nation over the last few years, serving as a model state in seat belt use as well as child safety seat use. Hawaii recorded 97 percent seat belt use last year.

Among the counties, Maui had the highest rate with 98.4 percent.

A $784,000 grant from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration went toward the campaign that included enforcement, public awareness and the child safety seat program.

Police issued 2,456 citations statewide this year for seat belt violations, compared with 4,387 last year. Under state law, all front-seat occupants, as well as back-seat passengers under the age of 18, are required to buckle up. Violators face a $92 fine.

“;Seat belt usage reduces fatalities and injuries in motor vehicle collisions,”; said Maj. Thomas Nitta, commander of the Honolulu Police Department's Traffic Division. “;Public information campaigns such as Click It or Ticket, a combined effort of federal, local and state agencies, have raised public awareness of seat belt use as the most effective way to save lives and reduce injuries.”;

As of Aug. 28, 28 people who were listed in critical condition from crashes that occurred on Oahu did not use a seat belt, according to Maj. Clayton Kau, spokesman for the Honolulu Police Department.

Police also issued 159 child safety seat citations during the two-week campaign. The state's child passenger restraint law requires children under 4 to ride in a child safety seat.

Children between ages 4 and 8 must either ride in a child safety seat or a booster seat. Violators face a fine ranging from $100 to $500.