The Goleta Police Department will be out in force Thursday and April 23, searching for unbelted drivers and passengers and enforcing California’s seat-belt laws as part of a yearlong Click It or Ticket campaign.

The state’s seat-belt use rate in 2009 was 95.2 percent, which still leaves more than a million Californians vulnerable. Through enforcement and awareness, fewer lives will be lost. 2008 collision data show that more than 1,389 people in passenger vehicles died in crashes while unbelted. About half of those lives could have been saved if they had been wearing seat belts.

“Seat belts save lives, and law enforcement will stop and cite those driving or riding without seat belts in vehicles this week,” Police Chief Phil Willis said. “Officers will not give a pass on this critically important safety requirement, so please buckle up and protect your passengers by ensuring they fasten their seat belts or use the proper child restraint system.”

Goleta police officers will be out at all hours during the campaign. Teens will be a particular focus of officers, as their usage rate lags behind adults, yet they are disproportionately involved in more crashes. Proper restraints can increase chances of surviving a serious crash by 50 percent.

Funding for the operation was provided by a grant from the California Office of Traffic Safety through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

— Drew Sugars is a public information officer for the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department.