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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Federal seat-belt ads reach teenage drivers

Dee-Ann Durbin Associated Press

WASHINGTON – More teenagers and young adults buckled up last year after a federal seat-belt advertising campaign targeted younger audiences, the government says.

Figures on the increased usage were being released today at the start of the national “Click It or Ticket” campaign, a drive to enforce seat-belt laws in all 50 states using police checkpoints and patrols. The enforcement period is May 24 through June 6.

After the ads ran in 2003, belt use increased by 7 percentage points for men and women ages 16 to 24, from 65 percent to 72 percent. Among young women, it increased from 73 percent to 80 percent; among young men it increased from 65 percent to 75 percent.

That was a larger increase than the population as a whole experienced, a 4 percentage point increase, from 75 percent to 79 percent.

The Transportation Department spent $25 million on the ads, which warned motorists about the increased enforcement. The ads, designed to appeal to young adults because they have the lowest seat belt rates, ran during youth-oriented shows such as “Fear Factor” and “WWF Smackdown.”

The campaign may have saved lives, safety officials said. Preliminary data indicate that 5,332 people aged 16 to 20 died in fatal accidents in 2003, which is almost 300 fewer than in 2002. Final numbers are expected during the summer.

Television and radio advertising for “Click It or Ticket” this year will cost $30 million. The campaign will involve 12,000 law enforcement agencies.

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