As the busy Memorial Day weekend approaches, extra officers will be patrolling Iowa's highways and interstates for the next two weeks. The Special Traffic Enforcement Project (STEP) begins Monday, May 23, and continues through June 6, 2016.

Authorities will be placing an emphasis on seat belt usage, especially between the hours of 6 p.m. and 6 a.m. due to the significant number of violations and fatal crashes that occurred during that 12-hour period. Iowa's "Click It or Ticket" campaign is part of a nationwide effort to keep the roads safe at the start of the summer travel season.

“Law enforcement plays an important role in helping protect the safety of our citizens,” said Pat Hoye, Chief of the Iowa Governor’s Traffic Safety Bureau. “Time after time, we see the deadly results that come from drivers and passengers not wearing their seat belt. Wearing a seat belt is one of the most important steps in increasing survivability in a crash.”

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For many, buckling up in a vehicle is second nature. However, in 2014, statistics show that 9,385 people across the country lost their lives as a result of not buckling their seat belt. In Iowa, 118 of the 322 crash fatalities were not buckled up.

According to the statistics, Iowa's 93-percent seat belt compliance rate is among the best in the nation. Still, many of the state’s traffic fatalities weren't belted and those are lives that could have been saved, law enforcement officials said.

Figures provided by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) show that passenger vehicle occupants are buckling up more during the day but not enough at night. Over the next two weeks, the "Click It or Ticket" mobilization will place a non-stop focus on seat belt violators, with the strongest enforcement effort occurring in the nighttime hours between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m.

Gasoline prices are currently the lowest they've been in 11 years, averaging around $2.22 a gallon in Iowa and $2.26 across the country. With the cheap pump prices, AAA projects more than 38 million Americans will travel this weekend -- the second-highest Memorial Day travel volume on record, and the most since 2005.