Police and sheriff's officers throughout Bergen and Passaic counties ramped up this year's national "Click It or Ticket" crackdown heading into the Memorial Day weekend.
The campaign, which runs through June 5, combines seat belt checkpoints and saturation patrols with increased publicity, to reiterate the life-saving value of seat belts.
"Using a seat belt is the simplest way for a driver and his or her passengers to protect themselves when traveling,” said Gary Poedubicky, acting director of the New Jersey Division of Highway Traffic Safety.
An estimated 21,000 people in the U.S. were killed in traffic crashes in 2013 -- and nearly half of them were unrestrained, he said.
A key focus of this year’s campaign is to get back seat passengers to buckle up.
The front seat belt usage rate in New Jersey was estimated at 91.36% -- but rear-seat passengers are buckling up at a rate of 39%.
"For some reason, people seem to have a false sense of security riding in the back seat," Tenafly Police Capt. Michael deMoncada said. "Unfortunately, rear seat passengers are just as susceptible to serious injury in a crash if they aren’t buckled in a seat belt."
Last year, 372 New Jersey police agencies participated in the two-week "Click It or Ticket" initiative.
As a result, 26,308 seat belt tickets were written, as well as nearly 5,000 speeding summonses.
Police also made 833 impaired driving arrests.