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Goodfellow makes sure to "click it"

GOODFELLOW AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- While local law enforcement agencies joined with hundreds of other state and local law enforcement and highway safety officials across the nation during mid-May through Memorial Day to launch an aggressive national "Click It or Ticket" seat belt enforcement mobilization to crack down on low seat belt use and to reduce highway fatalities, Goodfellow Air Force Base has always kept a "Click It or Ticket" mentality.

Click It or Ticket is a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration mobilization campaign aimed at increasing the use of seat belts among young people in the United States. The campaign's advertising is heavily aimed at teens and young adults.

Goodfellow Air Force Base Instruction 31-204 states operators and passengers of motor vehicles operated on all Air Force installations must properly wear restraint systems regardless of their seating position, both on and off military installations.

"Our personnel at both gates are instructed to check that every single vehicle that drives onto the base has its driver and passengers wearing seatbelts," said Lt. Col. Kenneth O'Neil, 17th Security Forces Squadron commander.

"Our patrolmen and the rest of our law enforcement team are consistently on the look out for those who do not follow the regulation, not because we want to issue them a citation, but because we want them to be safe on the road," added Lt. Col. O'Neil.

On a national level, this year's mobilization campaign placed new emphasis this year on convincing more motorists to buckle up all the time- especially during night.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration 2005 findings, 15,294 passenger vehicle occupants died in traffic crashes between the hours of 6 p.m. and 5:59 a.m.

Fifty-nine percent of those killed were NOT wearing their seat belts at the time of the crash. That percentage is considerably higher than the 44 percent of passenger vehicle occupants who were unrestrained and killed during daytime hours.

The alarming reality of what can happen when someone in a car accident doesn't wear their seat belt is one reality that Goodfellow became too familiar with last year.

In October 2006, two Airmen from the 311th Training Squadron died in separate car accidents.

Although all the details and circumstances that led to the events were not known, Col. Andrew Britschgi, then-17th Training Wing vice commander, said they did know that both of the deceased Airmen were not wearing their seatbelts.

"We have a strong belief that both Airmen would have survived had they been wearing their seatbelts," Col. Britschgi said.

According to the NHTSA, regular seat belt use is the single most effective way to protect people and reduce fatalities in motor vehicle crashes.

When worn correctly, seat belts have proven to reduce the risk of fatal injury to front-seat passenger car occupants by 45 percent - and by 60 percent in pickup trucks, SUVs and mini-vans.

"The proper wear of vehicle safety restraints and the enforcement of this policy is one of the countless ways our military protects its most valuable resource, its people," concluded Lt. Col. O'Neil.

(Information by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and 17th Training Wing Safety Office contributed to this article.)