The Evanston Police Department warns drivers that if anyone in their vehicle is unbelted, they run the risk of getting an unwelcomed gift from law enforcement.  As of January 1, 2012, everyone, no matter the age or seating position, will be required to wear a safety belt.

“I urge everyone driving on Illinois roadways this holiday season to drive carefully, do not drive impaired and, most importantly, buckle up each and every trip, night or day.  Remember, the best defense against an impaired driver or a distracted driver is a safety belt.” said Sergeant Walter Baumgart.

The Illinois Department of Transportation’s Division of Traffic Safety (IDOT/DTS) says that Illinois has a 92.9 percent daytime safety belt usage rate.  However, far too many drivers and passengers still do not buckle up. In Illinois, during the Thanksgiving holiday period in 2010, fifteen vehicle occupants died in motor vehicle traffic crashes; nine of those deaths involved a drinking driver and over 700 were injured.

“To lose a loved one is a terrible thing to experience, but to lose one’s life when it might have been saved by taking two seconds to buckle a safety belt is truly senseless,” said Sergeant Walter Baumgart.

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) statistics show that those least likely to buckle up are teens; young adults; males; motorists traveling on rural roads and individuals traveling in pickup trucks, especially during the late night hours. Data shows late-night hours are when the highest percentage of motorists die in alcohol-involved crashes and the lowest percentage of vehicle occupants are properly restrained.

“If you fail to buckle up during this holiday period, you run the risk of getting a ticket, or worse, being injured or killed,” Sergeant Walter Baumgart warns.  “The same applies when you have been drinking and choose to drive. …We want all drivers and passengers to Click It or Ticket, day and night—and remember, Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over.”

Regular safety 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, says the Evanston Police Department.