A warning for drivers who don't wear their seat belts - New Jersey's annual "Click It or Ticket" seat belt and child restraint enforcement campaign begins Monday.

Seat belt
Woman hand fastening a seat belt in the car (Photo by Tomwang112, Thinkstock)

The campaign, which takes place nationwide, targets unbuckled motorists and passengers.

During last year's campaign, 26,635 tickets were issued in New Jersey, a hike from 2013 when 26,049 tickets were issued. In addition to seat belt citations, police officers also wrote 692 child restraint and 4,363 speeding citations, and 944 DWI arrests.

Overall, seat belt compliance usually ranges from 85 to 95 percent in New Jersey, according to the state Division of Highway Traffic Safety. The highest ever tallied was in 2011 at 94.5 percent.

Currently, the state's seat belt compliance rate stands at 87.59 percent, with the goal of getting to a statewide rate of 90 percent in this year's campaign.

Despite the high compliance success rate, there are still fatalities on state highways."Unfortunately, we do have people die in motor vehicle crashes, and the most recent numbers show that about 150 people die each year in our state who are not restrained properly," said Zach Hosseini, spokesman with the New Jersey Division of Highway Traffic Safety.

While anywhere from 375 to 400 towns are expected to take part in this year's campaign, only 181 of them were awarded grants totaling $4,000 each to help pay for the additional patrols and checkpoints.

"Many more towns obviously see this as a major issue, and they dedicate time from their police departments to participate in the program," Hosseini said.

Officials are hoping the campaign will raise awareness of just how important it is to wear a seat belt.

"There's really not a reason, at this point, not to wear it," Hosseini said.

The campaign runs from May 18 to May 31.

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