BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - Law enforcement officers said they'd rather see drivers pay a fine than lose their lives by not wearing a seat belt. An awards luncheon in Biloxi recognized officers from across the state who are writing tickets for those who don't buckle up.
Statistics show when Mississippians go for a ride, about 78 percent of them buckle up, which is 8.7 percent below the national average. Officers said when writing tickets for seat belt violations, most drivers realize it's for their own good.
DUI Officer Jacob Mathis of the Lauderdale County Sheriff's Department said, "Lot of thank you's. People in the state of Mississippi, they're very appreciative of law enforcement doing their job."
The Buckle For Life Luncheon honored Mississippi officers who are writing the most citations for failure to use seat belt and child restraint devices.
"I've responded to over a thousand car accidents in my career of nine years," said Corporal Benjamin Seibert of the Mississippi Highway Patrol Troop K. "In those thousand car accidents, I've had countless fatalities but only a hand full of them were people who died wearing seat belts."
Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood was the guest speaker.
"I grew up in the era when we didn't have to wear them and now we do. Now it's automatic for me," said Hood. "Thank goodness my kids and a lot of kids have grown up always wearing them. So it's easier for us to get into the rhythm of doing it, but those who hadn't learned that habit, there are officers out here that encourage them to do that."
Some officers said they've not only seen how seat belts save lives, they've experienced it.
Mathis said,"I was involved in a on duty accident one evening about this time last year. If I hadn't had on my seat belt, I would have went through the windshield and I would not have been standing here talking to you today."
Officers said the state law says drivers are responsible if their passengers aren't wearing seat belts. and can be ticketed, The Gulfport Police Department finished first in the state for the number of seat belt citations written last year with 4,329.