BALTIMORE (WJZ) — The Maryland Department of Transportation and Motor Vehicle Administration Thursday announced a new initiative to lower the number of fatalities from drivers and passengers who don’t wear a seatbelt in the car.

Primarily aimed at teens, the push from highway officials is to make sure everyone is safe behind the wheel, and they’re handing out gifts like scarves and ties to remind teens to buckle up.

“In April, we were encouraged to announce an 8.5 percent decrease in our fatalities,” MDOT Secretary Pete Rahn said. “That’s pointing in the right direction but it’s not where we need to be.”

While most drivers are getting the message, a new statewide survey shows teen drivers are still a cause for concern.

To make sure teens know how important seatbelts are, the agencies created the “Seat Belts Look Good On You” campaign.

On every third Friday of the month, student drivers who pass their driver road skills test will get a seat belt or Maryland scarf as a reminder to always buckle up behind the wheel.

“We talk about it a lot but this is a great way to give a gift to give to someone they can keep with them and think about that decision they make every time they get in a vehicle,” MVA administrator Chrissy Nizer said.

MDOT officials said over 500 crashes happened last year. More than 100 people died from not wearing a seatbelt.

Wearing a seat belt can reduce the risk of a fatal injury in a crash by 45 percent, officials said.

Some drivers WJZ spoke with said the new campaign is something they can get behind.

“Everyone should wear their seat belts when they’re driving it’s just really dangerous not to wear your seat belt,” said Kathleen Leblant.

“If you’re in an accident, your seat belt could save your life,” said Harriet Jones.

Kelsey Kushner

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