‘Click It or Ticket’ to target rural areas where seat belt use is lowest

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DENVER — It’s time to buckle up or pay up.

Beginning Monday and running through April 2, rural counties will be targeted by the Colorado Department of Transportation and the Colorado State Patrol for a special “Click It or Ticket” campaign.

According to CDOT,  the state’s seat belt use rate dropped from 85 percent to 84 percent in 2016. Fifteen rural counties registered below the state average.

Law enforcement issued 1,605 citations in rural communities during last year’s spring enforcement.

With seat belt use lowest in rural counties, the number of deaths might also be particularly inflated because those involved in car crashes are often hours from the closest hospital.

Pueblo, Morgan and Delta counties have the lowest average seat belt rate, CDOT said. Additionally, drivers and passengers in pickup trucks had a lower use rate (76.1 percent) than any other vehicle type.

Officials are ramping up enforcement with the hopes that hitting drivers in the wallet will convince them to strap in.

“About half of all people killed in passenger vehicle traffic crashes in Colorado last year were unbuckled,” a CDOT spokesman said.

In 2015, seat belts saved an estimated 13,941 lives nationwide, including 200 in Colorado, CDOT said.

Fines for not buckling up start at $65, and parents or caregivers caught with an improperly restrained child can receive a minimum fine of $82.