The West Feliciana Parish Sheriff’s Office is determined to get the message across that seat belts save lives, so beginning Friday, deputies will start cracking down on seat belt violations and issuing citations to anyone caught traveling without a buckled seat belt or transporting unrestrained children, said Erin Foster, West Feliciana Sheriff’s Office spokesperson.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, seat belts have saved nearly 63,000 lives during the five-year period from 2008 to 2012.

In 2012, the use of seat belts in vehicles by passengers 5 and older saved an estimated 12,174 lives; the use of child restraints such as child safety seats and lap or shoulder belts by passengers 4 and younger saved 284 lives; and an additional 3,031 lives would have been saved if all unrestrained vehicle occupants involved in fatal crashes had worn their seat belts, according to NHTSA data statistics.

In 2013, there were 9,580 unbelted vehicle occupants killed in crashes, the NHTSA data shows.

“If there is one thing I could urge motorists of all ages — drivers, passengers, front seat and back seat — to do every time they get into a vehicle, it’s to buckle up. It is the single most effective way to avoid being killed in a crash,” said Sheriff J. Austin Daniel. “When you ride in a motor vehicle without a seat belt, you are taking a huge risk ... one you can’t afford.”

Daniel said there are too many false notions out there about seat belts, and young adults in particular seem to think they are invincible in vehicles.

“Unfortunately, they (young adults) are dying at a disproportionate rate because they’re not wearing their seat belts, more men are dying in crashes compared to women because they wear their seat belts less, and truck occupants think they don’t need to wear their seat belts because they believe their large vehicles will protect them in a crash,” Daniel said.

According to more NHTSA statistics and Center for Disease Control and Prevention data:

Of the teens aged 13 to 20 that died in crashes in 2012, about 55 percent were not wearing a seat belt at the time of the crash.

Adults 18 to 34 are less likely to wear seat belts than adults 35 or older.

Men are 10 percent less likely to wear seat belts than women.

Adults who live in rural areas are 10 percent less likely to wear seat belts than adults who live in urban and suburban areas

Sixty-three percent of truck occupants killed in crashes in 2012 were not buckled up compared with 43 percent of passenger car occupants killed while also not wearing seat belts.

“We are determined to help bring these numbers down,” Daniel said. “There are too many people dying on the roads, and many of these deaths could be prevented if people simply took the time to click their seat belts. We will be focusing our efforts during this time, but we will also be handing out tickets year round to those who still haven’t gotten the message.”

Daniel urges drivers to ensure that everyone in their vehicle is buckled up before driving.

“Don’t just do it to avoid a ticket, do it so you arrive at your destination safely. Since it’s our job to help protect West Feliciana motorists, we’re taking this campaign very seriously,” Daniel said.

“Consider yourself warned. If we catch you not wearing your seat belt on the road, you will get a ticket. No excuses, no warnings. We’re hoping you’ll get the message and buckle up every trip, every time, even after the crackdown period is over. Wearing your seat belt is required by law 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.”

Foster said overtime funding for additional patrols during the campaign was made possible through a grant from the Louisiana Highway Safety Commission.

To learn more, visit www.lahighwaysafety.org.