If You Get A Seat-Belt Ticket Soon, Don't Blame Elvis

Nothing says seat belt safety like five oversized inflated balloons in the shape of a cowboy, duck, bull, Godzilla monster and Elvis look-alike.

At least that's what the Texas law enforcement community is hoping, as they unveiled the 24-foot-tall "safety ambassadors" this morning at Discovery Green as part of the 8th annual TxDOT "Click It or Ticket" seat belt safety campaign.

For the next two weeks, Houston area cops will be out in extraordinary numbers looking for drivers who are not buckled up. HPD's Assistant Chief Vicki King said today at the campaign's launch that thanks to a state grant of $140,000, more than 400 additional officers will be patrolling Houston's streets looking specifically for seat belt violations.

"That is their mission," she said, "and they are very good at it. So our advice to you is click it or ticket."

King said she couldn't divulge what types of cars her officers may be driving or where they may be hiding, but that they will be working in "unusual ways."

The statewide campaign will target pickup drivers and teens, with a special emphasis on those aged 18 to 34. King said that 234 "souls" lost their lives in traffic collisions last year in Houston. Delvin Dennis, a local TxDOT official, said that nearly 3,500 people died on the road last year across the state.

Since the campaign kicked off in 2002, said Dennis, there has been a 15 percent increase in seat belt use, bringing the current total to 91 percent. The goal this month is to raise that number to 93.25 percent.

The balloons will tour the state for the next three weeks reminding drivers with catchy slogans to buckle up. Godzilla, for instance, had a sign in front of it saying "Avoid a monster fine;" the Elvis look-alike had one saying "Buckle me tender." You can check out their first assignment on Saturday at the Orange Show Art Car Parade.

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