COLLEYVILLE -- Cody Burns was a classic example of a Texas driver who didn't wear a seat belt.
"All too often in Texas the groups that are least likely to wear seat belts are men, pickup drivers, people living in rural areas and young people -- and all those demographics were my brother," Fort Worth Councilman Joel Burns said. More than a year after his brother's death, as police embark upon their annual Click It Or Ticket campaign, Joel Burns has agreed to retell his family's story in hopes that more people will buckle up.
Cody Burns, 27, of Stephenville, died in March 2011 in Erath County. He lost control of his pickup, which left the road and rolled. He and another front-seat passenger were ejected. A back-seat passenger who was wearing a seat belt survived the crash with cuts and was able to go for help.
Across Texas, police are cracking down on safety belt violators through June 3, including the Memorial Day weekend.
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Several thousand officers from local police departments as well as state troopers are fanning out across the state, pulling over motorists who aren't using seat belts or are using them improperly. State and federal transportation funds are being used to pay the officers' salaries, to ensure their efforts are focused on seat belts.
"Seat-belt use in Texas is much higher than it was when we started this effort 11 years ago, but we still have some holdouts," said Carol Rawson, director of the Texas Department of Transportation's traffic operations division.
Nearly 94 percent of all Texas drivers now buckle up, according to the Texas Transportation Institute at Texas A&M University -- and the percentage is even higher in metropolitan areas.
Even so, almost half of the roughly 3,000 people killed in collisions in 2011 weren't wearing belts.
The fine for failure to use a safety belt can be up to $250 plus court costs.
Texas law now specifies that the driver and all passengers must be strapped in. Children younger than 8 years old must be in a safety or booster seat, unless they are taller than 4 feet 9 inches.
During 25 minutes one afternoon this week, Colleyville police officer C. Tinsman wrote four citations to motorists who weren't buckled up. The motorcycle officer was taking part in Click It Or Ticket enforcement near Texas 121 and Glade Road in Northeast Tarrant County.
One teenage driver in a pickup quickly tried to put on his seat belt after spotting Tinsman in the Glade Road median, but it was too late. The driver pulled over in a nearly shopping center, and Tinsman wrote him a ticket.
"Most people just tell you they forgot," Tinsman said of common excuses he hears from motorists. "Others will say that it's a short trip, and they didn't feel they needed to buckle up."
Gordon Dickson, 817-390-7796