Police departments across South Jersey are preparing for the nationwide “Click it or Ticket” campaign next week, which aims to ensure all divers and passengers are wearing seatbelts.

The annual campaign runs from May 20 through June 2. Law enforcement will be highly visible and may set up checkpoints and saturation patrols in various areas.

The usage rate of seatbelts in the state declined last year for the first time in 15 years, to about 88 percent, according to Gary Poedubicky, acting director of the state Divison of Highway Traffic Safety. The goal this year is to return to more than 90 percent compliance.

“Using a seatbelt is the simplest way” for travelers to be safe, Poedubicky said. “In 2010 alone, seat belts save and estimated 12,546 lives nationwide.”

Backseat adult seatbelts are also a part of the campaign, although compliance has remained at about 36 percent, Poedubicky said.

During last year’s campaign, 425 police agencies in the state participated. Law enforcement officers issued 29,307 seat belt citations, 4,951 speeding summonses and arrested 861 drunken drivers.

Anjalee Khemlani

Senior copy editor for the Press of Atlantic City. Have worked as a reporter, copy editor and news editor with the paper since 1985. A graduate of the University of Delaware.