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RALEIGH – As North Carolina enters one of the deadliest weeks of the year for motorists, local law enforcement agencies plan to increase patrols this weekend to remind drivers and passengers to buckle up.

The initiative, dubbed Operation Crash Reduction, is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the N.C. Governor’s Highway Safety Program.

“Too many people wrongly believe they are safe in the back seat without buckling up,” said Mark Ezzell, director of the N.C. Governor’s Highway Safety Program. “Remember that no matter where you are seated, if you are unrestrained you can be ejected from the vehicle — which is almost always deadly.”

North Carolina is one of several states participating in the broader regional campaign, which runs from Oct. 8-11. The law enforcement effort aims to save lives and prevent injuries due to traffic crashes, with an emphasis on seatbelt use. Officers will be conducting seatbelt checks and educating drivers and passengers.

October is a deadly time on North Carolina roads, according to NCDOT. In October 2020, more than 130 people were killed and nearly 500 more seriously injured in traffic crashes across the state. More fatal crashes occur during the first two weeks of October than during busy holiday travel periods like Thanksgiving or Memorial Day.

In these fatal crashes, more than 46 percent of occupant fatalities in passenger vehicles, trucks and buses were unrestrained, according to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. For backseat passengers, 58 percent of those killed were unrestrained.

“For several years now, we have had this troubling trend in this East Coast region,” said Stephanie Hancock, NHTSA Regional administrator. “We know that speed, distraction and impairment are the root causes of most of the crashes in these states. However, seat belt and child safety seat use are your primary sources of protection in crashes caused by a speeding, impaired or distracted driver.”

For real-time travel information, click to DriveNC.gov or follow NCDOT on social media.

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