For nearly 60 years, millions have peered up at this gentle giant at the State Fair of Texas and heard his distinctive welcoming voice. Now Big Tex has a new message for Beaumont motorists: Click it or ticket.

On Saturday, May 8, a 20-foot replica of one of Texas’s most famous citizens traveled to the Spindletop-Gladys City Boomtown Museum in Beaumont to announce the Texas Department of Transportation’s (TxDOT) ninth annual Click It or Ticket safety belt enforcement campaign.

Since the Click It or Ticket campaign began, the state’s safety belt use rate has increased from 76 percent to almost 93 percent. However, a 2008 study by the Texas Transportation Institute found that Beaumont ranked the lowest out of 18 Texas cities at 82.6 percent. This year, TxDOT wants to be sure Beaumont motorists get the message to buckle up.

“Whether you’re the driver or a passenger in the front or back seat, every adult and every child in the vehicle must be properly restrained,” said Georgette Pillitere, the Beaumont Traffic Safety Specialist for TxDOT. “Buckling up saves lives, and it can also save you from getting an expensive ticket.”

Transportation officials say state laws enacted in 2009 could result in more citations this year if drivers and passengers fail to heed new safety belt requirements. For the first time, all passengers in the back seat now must be buckled up and children younger than 8 years old have to ride in a child safety seat or booster seat unless they are taller than 4 feet 9 inches. Fines range from $25 to $250 plus court costs.

Thousands of state troopers will join police officers and sheriffs’ deputies statewide to step up enforcement of the state’s safety belt laws between May 24 and June 6, including the Memorial Day holiday weekend.

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