With Memorial Day approaching and the start of the summer travel season, I want to urge every single Nebraskan to buckle up every time you get into a vehicle.
Whether we are running an errand, picking up kids from school, commuting to or from work, or heading out for a family vacation, we have a responsibility to buckle our seat belt and ensure our passengers do the same each time we get in a car or truck.
Nebraska law enforcement, public safety officials and community partners are launching a safe travel campaign in the coming days. The annual 'Click It or Ticket' mobilization begins ahead of Memorial Day weekend, this year starting on Monday, May 23 and running through Sunday, June 5. This is the seventh year our state has participated in the national safety campaign and this year we have a lot to celebrate.
We are experiencing fewer fatalities on our roadways. Last year, Nebraska had 186 fatalities, which were down from 205 total fatalities in 2009. Our 2010 total was the second lowest in Nebraska since recordkeeping began more than 70 years ago.
As a result, Nebraska achieved a fatality rate of 1.0 fatality per 100 million vehicle miles driven in 2010, which was five years ahead of the goal set by public safety leaders in the Strategic Highway Safety Plan. Beating our 2015 goal means we have an opportunity to set a more aggressive goal and to work with our road safety partners to help prevent crashes and ultimately save more lives.
We are in good position to improve this year. Through April, Nebraska recorded 40 fatalities; lower than the 50 fatalities recorded during the same time in 2010.
We want to continue that progress. Setting a new record for the lowest traffic fatality total in 2011 will require the partnership and personal responsibility of every driver and passenger. The most important step we can take is to buckle our seat belt.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Association says wearing a seat belt increases the chance of surviving a serious collision by up to 50 percent. Having an airbag adds an additional 10 percent to the chance of survival. Of the 40 fatalities recorded through April, only nine of the 38 vehicle passengers were wearing seat belts.
Buckling up is the single best way to protect you and your passengers.
That is why the 'Click It or Ticket' campaign continues to be an important part of our roads safety efforts. This year, the Nebraska State Patrol will be joined by 65 other law enforcement agencies across the state to emphasize the use of seat belts and proper child restraints.
This is an important time of year as traffic counts are higher during the summer and there are more road construction and maintenance projects. While we encourage Nebraskans to travel our state, it's important to keep in mind that more congestion and more work zones mean we need to remain alert and aware of other drivers. Move any Interstate or highway accidents to the side of the road. Remember that state law requires drivers to move over for emergency vehicles and for motorcycle riders to wear a helmet.
Law enforcement officers will be conducting special enforcements during the next two weeks to check for seat belts and proper child restraints. Help us make 'Click It or Ticket' 2011 a success by buckling up.