GULFPORT -- Police, deputies and state troopers across South Mississippi have taken a unified stand to educate motorists about the importance of wearing a seat belt.
They are focusing on seat-belt safety education this month and will beef up patrols for seat-belt checks from Monday through June 5. The patrols, which will include safety checkpoints, are part of a nationwide Click It Or Ticket campaign.
They announced their plans Wednesday at a press conference at the Gulfport Police Department.
The efforts also are in response to statistics that show the Memorial Day weekend is the deadliest weekend nationwide for lives lost in traffic crashes.
Last May, 68 people died in crashes across Mississippi, said Twyla Jennings of the Mississippi Office of Highway Safety. At least 12 of the deaths were in South Mississippi.
In the same month, during a two-week Click It Or Ticket campaign, 33 people died in crashes statewide. At least three of the deaths were in South Mississippi.
Those who died were "people who could have gone home to their loved ones if they had taken a few seconds to buckle their seat belts," Jennings said.
Crashes on a Memorial Day Weekend take more lives than any other holiday period, she said. "It's the start of summer, children are getting out of school and families are starting to go on vacations."
Wearing a seat belt, she said, "is one of the best ways there is to survive in a crash."
Jenner said statistics routinely show more women wear seat belts than men.
Crashes statewide claimed 677 lives last year. Of those, 313 who died, or 56.2 percent, were unrestrained, Jenner said.
Law enforcement officers want to see more people wearing seat belts, Mississippi Highway Patrol Capt. Johnny Poulos said.
"Even one unrestrained person in the car can take everyone's life," he said.
"We're going to be out there doing our job, but we need good, responsible decisions made by the public. We cannot get in the car and make that click for you. Children's lives depend on it. If you're a driver, your life depends on it.
"Just wear your seat belt."