ESSEX, FELLS, NJ — As of Monday, the Essex Fells Police Department has begun cracking down on unbuckled motorists and passengers as part of the national “Click It or Ticket” campaign. 

From now through June 2, this program will utilize high-visibility seatbelt checkpoints and saturation patrols in combination with local and statewide publicity efforts to reiterate the lifesaving value of seatbelts, according to police.

"Using a seat belt is the simplest way for motor vehicle occupants to protect themselves on the road," said Eric Heitmann, director of the New Jersey Division of Highway Traffic Safety. "Crash statistics show that between 2013 and 2017, seatbelt use saved nearly 69,000 lives nationally." 

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Essex Fells police noted that a key focus of New Jersey's campaign this year is to promote seatbelt usage by adults in all seating positions in the vehicle, meaning both front and rear seats.

According to the New Jersey Division of Highway Traffic Safety, the front seatbelt usage rate in New Jersey currently stands at 94.47 percent. However, a recent survey also found that adults riding in rear seats are using seatbelts at a significantly lower rate of only 48 percent.

"For whatever reason, there seems to be a disconnect with people feeling they don't need to buckle up when riding as passengers in rear seats, and this is a concern," said Heitmann. "By promoting back-seat usage of seatbelts during our Click It or Ticket campaign, we are encouraging passenger habits that will save lives."

During last year's campaign, 357 New Jersey police agencies participated in the two-week initiative that resulted in an issuance of 19,659 seatbelt citations, 4,437 speeding summonses and 661 impaired driving arrests.