ST. PAUL — Added seat belt patrols will be in effect in Minnesota’s top 10 Greater Minnesota counties with the highest numbers of unbelted deaths and serious injuries, April 2–8. The Minnesota Department of Public Safety (DPS) Office of Traffic Safety is coordinating the federally funded effort.
Motorists in the following 10 Greater Minnesota counties will see added patrols: Cass, Itasca, Mille Lacs, Morrison, Olmsted, St. Louis, Stearns, Renville, Rice and Winona. Combined, these counties suffered 854 unbelted deaths and serious injuries during 2007–2009.
Each year, 75 percent of unbelted traffic deaths occur on Greater Minnesota roads.
“Motorists may feel a false sense of security on two-lane, light traffic roads and choose not to buckle up,” says Donna Berger, director of the DPS Office of Traffic Safety. “In reality, these parts of the state are the deadliest, and lack of belt use is a main factor in why so many preventable tragedies occur in these counties.”
Primary Seat Belt Law — Saving Lives, Taxpayer Dollars
The enforcement follows the release of a new University of Minnesota report citing the life-saving impact of the primary seat belt law, which requires drivers and passengers in all seating positions, including the back seat, to be buckled up or seated in the correct child restraint. Seat belts must also be worn correctly — low and snug across the hips; shoulder straps should never be tucked under an arm or behind the back. Officers will stop and ticket unbelted drivers or passengers.
The University of Minnesota study cites that since enactment in June 2009, the law has resulted in 68 fewer deaths and 320 fewer serious injuries. The law has also reduced crash severity injuries, translating to $45 million in avoided hospital charges, including $10 million taxpayer savings for Medicaid and Medicare.
Why Buckle Up
In rollover crashes, unbelted motorists are usually ejected from the vehicle; in most cases, the vehicle will roll over the unbelted motorist. Often, those unbelted will be injured on steering wheels, and even slam into and injure or kill others in the vehicle.
Child Passenger Safety
The enforcement campaign will include enforcement of Minnesota’s child passenger safety law which requires children to use a booster seat after they have outgrown a forward-facing harnessed restraint (typically age 4 and 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. DPS recommends keeping children in boosters based on their height rather than age. Boosters help adult seat belts fit children correctly.
Promoting the Message
DPS officials stress the importance to promote the seat belt enforcement to encourage belt use.
“Our goal is not to write tickets, but to increase belt compliance,” says Lt. Eric Roeske of the State Patrol. “By promoting the enforcement, we encourage motorists to belt up, so we don’t have to remind them personally with a ticket.”
The enforcement will be accompanied by a paid media push through Facebook ads, gas pumptoppers and radio advertising, and a website featuring a dramatic TV spot.
The Greater Minnesota seat belt enforcement campaign is a component of the state’s Toward Zero Death (TZD) initiative. 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.