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The Peter K. O'Rourke Special Achievement Award

The Peter K. O'Rourke Special Achievement Awards recognize notable achievements in the field of highway safety during the prior calendar year by individuals, coalitions, organizations, nonprofit groups, businesses, government agencies, universities or programs. About Peter K. O'Rourke

2004 Winner: Washington State’s “Click It or Ticket” Campaign

GHSA Highway Safety Awards

Washington Traffic Safety Commission Staff
Washington Traffic Safety Commission Staff

While many states conduct "Click It or Ticket" programs, Washington is deserving of this honor because of the creative measures taken to ensure a strong campaign, and the undeniable effectiveness of the campaign. Following the campaign, seat belt use in Washington reached 95 percent, the highest rate in the nation in 2003.

The Evergreen State's Traffic Safety Commission used the campaign to reinforce with motorists the primary seat belt law was enacted in 2002. The Commission saturated motorists through both earned and paid media. The Commission also localized the message, using police chiefs and sheriffs as campaign spokespersons. These law enforcement officials teamed with television actor Erick Estrada and Seattle Seahawks' quarterback Matt Hasselbeck to record PSAs. Roughly $900,000 was split between funding paid media and overtime for police officers for seatbelt enforcement.

The Commission was certain to make sure the bite of the campaign matched its bark. Enforcement was highly visible, and officers were given incentives to enforce the law. Individual officers writing 40 seat belt citations were awarded with a miniature model of their own police car. The award was popular: 325 customized cars were given out, equating to 13,000 citations. Officers were not the only ones motivated to write seat belt citations. Police agencies earned a $1,000 traffic safety grant if they wrote 100 seat belt citations. 60 agencies qualified for grants totaling $140,000.

A vital part of the campaign was the installation of 650 road signs on state roadways. The fluorescent yellow signs read, "SEAT BELTS MUST BE WORN! $86 FINE - CLICK IT OR TICKET!" Receiving permission, however, to post the signs was a major challenge the Commission encountered.

In order to get these new signs posted, the Commission and the Washington Department of Transportation turned to Federal Highway Administrator Mary Peters, who worked to change the federal signage regulations and granted the state permission to post the signs. Washington's extra step to recommend changes to the federal signage regulations has had implications for other states, as all states are now allowed to post "Click It or Ticket" signs along their roadways.

This innovative approach to a program which has been conducted countless times, serves as a template for other states and a reminder that very high safety belt use rates are achieveable.

For more information please contact Mark Medalen at