Social Marketing Success Stories

Click It or Ticket

Click it or Ticket is a model social marketing program showing how success is possible by combining enforcement with communication outreach. The first step was to re-define the product benefits - using set belts were made important not to save your life, but to keep you from getting "busted" by the police. A new law was passed by the North Carolina legislature which made it possible for police to stop and ticket motorist who were not wearing their seat belt. The price was now a financial fine and jail time if people did not use their seat belt. Places, checkpoints, were established throughout the state where motorists were stoppped and checked for seat belt use. The promotion P was directed at advertising the new law and its legal consequences. An extensive evaluation of the program showed not only when both communication and enforcement were combined in a single unified marketing strategy, the results were impressive (a 14% reduction in traffic fatalities), but when the communication was withdrawn and the enforcement left in place, seat belt use dropped dramatically. Once the communication component was restored compliance went back up.


Increased seat belt usage: As a direct result of the Click It or Ticket campaign, the average seat-belt usage rate in North Carolina jumped from 65 percent to over 80 percent in the first six months of the program, and currently stands as one of the highest rates in the nation at 84 percent.

Decrease in highway injuries and economic costs: The dramatic increase in seat-belt usage has led to a 14 percent reduction in fatal and serious highway injuries and a corresponding savings of $125 million in health care-related costs since the program began in 1993. The decrease in the number and severity of auto injuries also resulted in a $33 million reduction in insurance premiums paid to North Carolina auto insurers.

Increase in enforcement of auto-related crimes: Because of the Click It or Ticket's system of checkpoints throughout the state, law enforcement officials have discovered more than 56,000 other auto-related criminal offences since the program's start, including: stolen vehicles, felony drug violations, illegal firearms, and fugitives from justice. During a three-week period of the first year, police officers discovered 1,829 DWI violations and 2,043 drivers with revoked licenses. Funds generated as a result of these offenses and the more than 200,000 seat belt citations, which amounted to $1.6 million after the first year alone, go to benefit local public schools across the state.

Campaign awareness: Results from a telephone survey taken after the first year of the Click It or Ticket program indicated that 76 percent of North Carolina citizens were aware of stepped-up enforcement of belt use and child restraint laws. Of those that knew about the program, 88 percent said they specifically knew about the belt use checkpoints.

Changed attitudes: Survey results also showed that of those who knew about the program, 57 percent said that it had made them buckle up more often; and 86 percent of all of those surveyed said that they favored programs to increase seat belt use.

Click It or Ticket

In 1993, Governor Jim Hunt of North Carolina launched a statewide seat belt enforcement campaign called the Click It or Ticket Program. In coordination with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and county and local law enforcement agencies, the program set out to increase seat belt and child safety use across the state by means of a highly publicized enforcement campaign of the state's mandatory seat belt law. Still in effect as the state's primary seat belt program, the Click It or Ticket campaign achieved immediate success and has become a model for both state and national enforcement programs across the country.

Prior to 1980, seat belt use in the United States hovered around 11 percent, even after numerous volunteer and educational campaigns at the local, county, and state levels. Between 1980 and 1984 other efforts were made to increase use through individual organizations, public education programs, incentives and policy changes. These efforts did not have any significant impact in large, metropolitan areas; and by the end of that term, national seat belt usage had reached only 15 percent.

In 1984, New York became the first state to enact a mandatory seat belt use law, and by 1990, 37 other states had followed suit. While the vast majority of these were secondary enforcement statutes, laws requiring an officer to observe another traffic violation before citing a seat belt infraction, the national usage rate climbed from 15 to 50 percent. Even with this success, it was clear from results in Canada that laws themselves would not be sufficient to achieve high seat belt usage.

Make the Benefit Enforcement, Not Health

Truly successful rate increases had been achieved in Canada and individual jurisdictions in the US only through highly visible "waves" of enforcement. These results prompted NHTSA to implement Operation Buckle Down in 1991, a two-year STEP (Special Traffic Enforcement Program) to increase seat-belt use. Though there was no uniformity to the level of enforcement or visibility within each state, the program saw the usage rate increase from 53 to 62 percent by the end of 1992.

By 1993, North Carolina was one of only a handful of states with a primary seat belt law in place, one in which officers can make a citation without having to observe another traffic violation. Implementation of the primary law itself resulted in a significant increase in belt usage to 78%. As had been observed in Canada, however, the rate decreased shortly thereafter to around 65% where it remained. It was clear to state officials that a long-term approach was needed to achieve and sustain a high usage rate.

Combine enforcement with visibility

Success of the initial Click It or Ticket program depended upon the effectiveness of its marketing and media campaigns and the level of public visibility it was able to achieve. To bring the necessary public attention to the Click It or Ticket message and to publicize the checkpoint effort, state officials utilized a variety of media and events before and after each phase of the program. During the campaign's first year, more than $150,000 worth of television, radio and newspaper ads were purchased across the state. Television and radio spots delivered PSAs (Public Service Announcements) at strategic times throughout the year to convey the campaign's precautionary seat belt messages and to warn drivers about the potential $25 ticket for not complying with the State's mandatory usage law. The campaign also conducted regular media outreach through press releases, op-eds, and program statistics for each county published in local newspapers. News coverage of the program The office of the Governor's Highway Safety Program also held special media events featuring prominent politicians and celebrities to generate press coverage for its campaigns. In addition to these measures, the current campaign also utilizes the Internet to publicize its message and to illustrate the program's results.

Country/State State of North Carolina, USA
Target Audience General population of North Carolina, automobile drivers and passengers.
Objectives The Click It or Ticket program was initiated to:
1. Increase seat belt and child safety restraint usage in North Carolina.
2. Decrease the number of fatalities and serious injuries in auto accidents.
3. Decrease the economic costs associated with auto-related accidents.
Media/Marketing Earned Media, television and radio advertisements, billboards, posters, political and celebrity events, media outreach, and police checkpoints.
Donors/Sponsors North Carolina Department of Transportation/Governor's Highway Safety Program, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the North Carolina Department of Insurance, and the Highway Safety Research Center of the University of North Carolina (HSRC).
Duration 1993 - Present
Contact Erica Hinton, Deputy Public Information Officer
Governor's Highway Safety Program
215 East Lane St.
Raleigh, North Carolina 27601 USA
Telephone: (919) 733-3083
Fax: (919) 733-0604

Printed with permission by The Social Marketing Institute