RUMFORD – Thanks to a $1,700 grant, police here will soon hit the roads to encourage the use of seat belts.

Click It or Ticket returns for another year, this time between May 22 and June 4.

“It will be all over Rumford,” said campaign director Detective Lt. George Cayer on Tuesday afternoon at the police station.

“Safety belts clearly save lives, but, unfortunately, too many people still need a tough reminder, so, we are going to be out in force buckling down on those who are not buckled up,” he said.

“Unless you want to risk a ticket, or worse – your life – you need to remember to Click It or Ticket’ day and night,” Cayer added.

To emphasize this, he cited a case that occurred on May 25, 2005, when police issued a summons to a young driver for not wearing his seat belt.

Then, a few days later at 10:10 p.m. on Isthmus Road, the same man was involved in a crash. This time, he was wearing a seat belt, as were two girls, ages 15 and 16, who suffered minor injuries, Cayer said.

But, a 15-year-old girl in the 1997 Ford Probe, which slammed into a tree when the driver evaded a deer, wasn’t wearing a seat belt, he said.

The girl suffered severe head trauma, and had to be taken by medical helicopter to Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston.

During last year’s campaign, Rumford police tallied 103 seat-belt violations, 26 speeding violations, and 74 other violations for the same two-week period.

“Toward the end of the two-week campaign, we noticed that the use of seat belts had gone up. Some officers were having a hard time locating violations. Word spread rapidly in our small community,” Cayer said.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, nearly one in five Americans, or 18 percent nationally, fail to regularly wear their sear belts when driving or riding in a motor vehicle.

Among those less likely to buckle up: young males, pickup-truck drivers and their passengers, people living in rural areas, and night-time drivers, the administration stated in a news release Tuesday.

During 2004, the administration tallied 31,693 passenger vehicle occupants who died in traffic crashes, of which, 55 percent were not wearing seat belts at the time of the crash.

Cayer said that regular seat-belt usage is the single most effective way to protect people and reduce fatalities in motor vehicle crashes.

When worn correctly, seat belts have proved to reduce risk of fatal injury to front-seat passenger car occupants by 45 percent, and, by 60 percent in pickup trucks, sport-utility vehicles and mini-vans, he said.

“Too many people still take the attitude that it will never happen to them. But fatal crashes can and do happen every day. We’d rather write a thousand tickets than have to knock on one family’s door with news that their loved one didn’t survive a crash because they weren’t wearing their safety belt,” Cayer said.