ST. PAUL — Minnesota motorists will experience a heightened, statewide enforcement effort of seat belt and child passenger safety laws from Oct. 14–27 during a Click It or Ticket campaign aimed at increasing seat belt use and saving lives.
Minnesota Department of Public Safety (DPS) Office of Traffic Safety reports 409 unbelted deaths and 814 unbelted serious, life-altering injuries in the state during 2008–2010.
Deputies, officers and troopers are asking motorists to be the main enforcers of the state’s primary seat belt law by speaking up to encourage others in the vehicle to buckle up.
“It may not be the easiest thing to tell someone what to do, but it’s a lot easier than dealing with the consequences,” says Lt. Eric Roeske of the Minnesota State Patrol. “Our goal is to not write tickets, it’s for motorists to make safe choices to limit these preventable tragedies.”
Seat belts must be worn correctly — low and snug across the hips; shoulder straps should never be tucked under an arm or behind the back, which is unsafe and illegal.
Of the 932 vehicle occupants killed during the last three years in Minnesota, only 45 percent were belted — and more than half of those unbelted were ejected from the vehicle. Unbelted motorists can slam into and injure or kill others in the vehicle, while in less violent crashes, unbelted motorists will often crack teeth out on the steering wheel or break their nose.
The primary seat belt law requires passengers in all seating positions, including the back seat, to be buckled up or seated in the correct child restraint. Officers will stop and ticket unbelted drivers or passengers.
The campaign will also include enforcement of Minnesota’s child passenger safety law which requires children to use a booster seat starting after they have outgrown a forward-facing harnessed restraint (typically 40–60 pounds, depending on seat’s weight limitations). Children should remain in a booster until they are age 8 or 4 feet 9 inches tall — whichever comes first. It is recommended to keep a child in a booster based on their height rather than age. Boosters help adult seat belts fit children correctly.
To-date in 2011 there has been 261 traffic deaths compared to 323 at this time in 2010.
Seat belt enforcement and education efforts are a component of the state’s core traffic safety initiative, Toward Zero Deaths (TZD). A primary vision of the TZD program is to create a safe driving culture in Minnesota in which motorists support a goal of zero road fatalities by practicing and promoting safe and smart driving behavior. TZD focuses on the application of four strategic areas to reduce crashes — education, enforcement, engineering and emergency trauma response.
Editor's Note: Download seat belt crash data by county.