Starting in January all people traveling in cars in Illinois will be required to wear a safety belt.

Current state law only requires front seat passengers and teens in cars being driven by a new driver to belt up.

Evanston police are planning stepped up seat belt and drunk-driving enforcement efforts over the Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday periods.

The state Department of Transportation says nearly 93 percent of people riding in cars buckle up during the daytime, but compliance drops during late-night hours. Those hours are also when the highest number of deaths in alcohol-involved crashes occur.

Federal statistics also show that those least likely to wear a safety belt include teens and young adults, males, motorists traveling on rural roads and people riding in pickup trucks.

“If you fail to buckle up during this holiday period, you run the risk of getting a ticket, or worse, being injured or killed,” Evanston Police Sgt. Walter Baumgart says.  “The same applies when you have been drinking and choose to drive. We want all drivers and passengers to Click It or Ticket, day and night—and remember, Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over.”

Research by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration has shown that when lap and shoulder belts are used properly, the risk of fatal injury to front-seat passenger car occupants is reduced by 45 percent, and the risk of moderate to serious injury is reduced by 50 percent.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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