Four Middlesex County police departments received grants to participate in the annual Click It or Ticket campaign from May 20 through June 2 with a focus on rear seat safety.

According to state statistics, less than 50 percent of rear-seat adult passengers use seat belts. 

Monroe, North Brunswick, Plainsboro and South Brunswick police departments each received $5,500 to help cover participation costs.

The New Jersey Division of Highway Traffic Safety campaign this year awarded $548,320 in grants to 128 police departments throughout the state.

The nationwide initiative uses seat belt checkpoints and patrols to reinforce and reiterate the life-saving value of seat belts while in a vehicle.

“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, seat belt use saved nearly 69,000 lives nationally.”

The campaign this time is focusing more on seat belt use by all passengers in a vehicle. According to statistics from the highway division, 94.5 percent of adults use front seat belts, however that number drops significantly to 48 percent for rear-seat adult passengers.

“By encouraging back seat usage of seat belts during our Click It or Ticket campaign, we’re encouraging passenger habits that will save lives,” Heitmann said.

In 2018, participating Middlesex police departments issued 615 citations for seat belts, according to the highway division. Thirty-four citations were issued for child restraints. Eleven of 26 police departments participated, with most of those receiving some funding.

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Christopher Lang is a freelance correspondent for MonroeNow. Previously he was part of The Record-USA Today Network and served as an editor for a decade at NJMG.