ST. PAUL — Minnesota’s seat belt compliance rate continues to climb, reaching a record high of 92.7 percent, up slightly from 92.3 percent in 2010. However, proper use of booster seats is just 64 percent, according to observational surveys conducted by the Minnesota Department of Public Safety (DPS) Office of Traffic Safety.
DPS officials attribute the continued increase in seat belt use to awareness and enforcement of the state’s primary seat belt law, which became effective in June 2009. Since then, the number of unbelted deaths has dropped 10 percent, and the number of unbelted severe injuries has dropped 5 percent.
This law allows law enforcement to stop and ticket unbelted drivers or passengers. A statewide seat belt enforcement campaign to increase belt use is on the roads through Oct. 27.
“This high belt use rate means more Minnesotans will survive crashes and families won’t be torn apart by these preventable tragedies,” says DPS Commissioner Mona Dohman. “Our challenge is to encourage those who continue to put their lives at risk to buckle up.”
Seat belt use was 20 percent before the state’s seat belt law became effective in 1986, and the rate has steadily climbed ever since. Belt use was 74 percent a decade ago.
Seat Belt Use Survey (Recorded belt use of 11,000 motorists in 37 counties during two weeks in August.)
- Statewide seat belt use rate: 92.7 percent.
- Belt use rate by vehicle type: Van — 96 percent; Car — 94; SUV — 92.5; Pickup — 88. Pickup occupant belt use is historically low, but has improved (up from 81 percent five years ago).
- Belt use rate by gender: Females — 95 percent; Males — 90 percent. This gap continues to close; the primary belt law has influenced more males to buckle up. Five years ago, female belt use was 92 percent and the male rate was 84.
- Belt use rate by age: 65 and older — 96 percent; 30–64 — 93; 0–10 — 93; 11–15 — 93; 16–29 — 92. Teen/young adult use continues to improve, up from 84 percent five years ago.
Booster Seat Use Survey (Recorded booster seat use of 3,759 children in 32 counties.)
DPS measured booster seat use for the first time. Boosters are required by law in Minnesota and help adult seat belts fit children correctly. Boosters are for children once they have outgrown a forward-facing harnessed restraint (typically age 4 and 40–60 pounds, depending on seat’s weight and height limitations). Children should remain in a booster until they are 4 feet 9 inches tall.
- Children properly restrained in a booster seat: 64 percent.
- Female caregivers more likely than males to put children in boosters.
- Lowest booster seat use among caregivers ages 16–29 (50 percent).
- If the driver was not belted, then only 27 percent of the children were in a booster.
The survey also reported 4.7 percent of drivers were using a hand-held phone while driving, translating to more than 17,000 drivers dialing and driving at a given time on Minnesota roads.