It may not sound surprising that pickup truck crash fatalities are higher in rural areas. There are, after all, a lot of trucks in the country. But trucks are popular in urban areas as well but pickup crashes account for significantly fewer fatalities in the city, said Bev Kellner, Texas Cooperative Extension program coordinator for passenger safety.

“Studies show that 56 percent of pickup crash fatalities in Texas happened in rural areas, compared to 44 percent in urban areas,” Kellner said.

That’s why every spring the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration sponsors a campaign to increase safety belt use.

“Click It or Ticket” is a two-week-long program designed to emphasize the ease – and cost effectiveness – of using a seat belt. Marked each year to include the Memorial Day weekend, this year “Click It or Ticket” is scheduled for May 21-June 3.

“Safety belt use is the single-most effective way to protect against injury and death in traffic crashes,” Kellner said. “Using safety belts does not cost a dime – not using them will cost you a citation during the May ‘Click It or Ticket’ mobilization.”

Law enforcement officers across the state will be extra vigilant in enforcing safety belt usage laws, she said. So not only does “clicking it” save lives, it also can save the cost of a ticket.

In addition, the Buckle Up In Your Truck campaign, which will be conducted during the same two weeks, is “aimed at 18- to 34-year-old men who do not consistently wear safety belts in their pickup trucks,” Kellner said.

This campaign, which focuses on pickup truck drivers and passengers in Texas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Arkansas and the Indian Nations, continues throughout May.

According to information from the traffic safety administration, from 2001 to 2005, 1,444 people died in pickup truck rollover crashes in Texas.

Pickup trucks generally are larger than cars, and owners tend to feel safer in them, she said.

“But pickup trucks roll over twice as often as passenger cars,” Kellner said. “And 65 percent of the rollover fatalities in pickup trucks were unrestrained, compared to 60 percent in all passenger vehicles.

Wearing a safety belt reduces the risk of dying in a rollover pickup truck crash by up to 80 percent, according to figures from the highway traffic safety administration.

Safety belt use is higher in passenger vehicles, Kellner said. Last year in Texas, that rate of usage was 90.4 percent in passenger vehicles and 86.4 percent in pickup trucks.

“Take those few seconds to buckle up on every trip,” she said. “It may very well save your life.”

For more information visit the Web at http://www.buckleupinyourtruck.com/ or http://www.nhtsa.dot.gov/.