ST. PAUL — If you hear that dinging seat belt reminder tone, better buckle up — or you’ll hear police sirens. It’s Click It or Ticket time, May 21–June 3, and in Minnesota, about 400 law enforcement agencies will increase seat belt patrols along with 10,000 agencies nationwide in an effort to stop preventable deaths and injuries. The state campaign is coordinated by the Department of Public Safety (DPS) Office of Traffic Safety .
Unbelted motorists have represented a significant amount of Minnesota’s traffic fatalities during 2009–2011 — with teens and young adults, and motorist in Greater Minnesota, as the main victims:
There were 878 motorist traffic deaths of which 377 (43 percent) were not buckled up.
Of the 377 unbelted deaths, 179 (48 percent) of the victims were age 30 or younger.
Of the 377 unbelted deaths, 300 (80 percent) occurred outside the seven-county Twin Cities’ area.
“At any given moment on the road, we are traveling alongside speeding, aggressive, distracted and impaired drivers,” says Donna Berger, DPS Office of Traffic Safety director. “Now, we’ll also be riding alongside more officers. The best defense we have in the case of a crash, and the smartest step to avoid a ticket, is to be buckled up.”
60 mph Crash with No Seat Belt? Like Falling from 12 Stories High
In addition to the added enforcement, DPS is providing another reason to belt up in a new TV spot that compares the impact of crashing at 60 mph without a seat belt to falling from 12 stories high.
Primary Seat Belt Law — Saving Lives
The state’s primary seat belt law is saving lives, according to a University of Minnesota study released in March. The study reported the law has resulted in 68 fewer deaths, 320 fewer injuries and $45 million in avoided hospital charges since enacted nearly three years ago (June 2009).
The primary 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. 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.
Why Buckle Up
In rollover crashes, unbelted motorists are usually ejected from the vehicle. In most cases, the vehicle will roll over them. Often, unbelted motorists will crack teeth out on steering wheels or break their nose, and even slam into and injure or kill others in the vehicle.
In a crash, odds are six times greater for injury if a motorist is not buckled up.
Keeping Kids Safe
The campaign will include enforcement of Minnesota’s child passenger safety law which makes drivers responsible for ensuring children are riding in the correct child restraint:
• Rear-facing car seats — Use from birth and recommended up to age 2.
• Forward-facing car seats — From age 2 until child outgrows restraint.
• Booster seats — Upon outgrowing forward-facing restraint, use until 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 raise children up so the seat belt properly fits them.
For more information on child passenger safety visit www.buckleupkids.mn.gov.
Saving Lives — Not Writing Tickets — Is the Goal
The DPS goal of the campaign is to make motorists aware of the enforcement to encourage belt use, save lives and avoid tickets.
“This campaign is not about writing tickets, it’s about demonstrating that we take this law seriously because of the many times we’ve responded to an unbelted fatality crash,” says Lt. Eric Roeske of the Minnesota State Patrol. “We want motorists to be aware we are out there and encourage them to remind other passengers to get belted.”
About the Office of Traffic Safety
The Minnesota Department of Public Safety Office of Traffic Safety (OTS) designs, implements, and coordinates federally funded traffic safety enforcement and education programs to improve driver behaviors and reduce the deaths and serious injuries that occur on Minnesota roads. OTS also administers state funds for the motorcycle safety program and for the child seats for needy families program. OTS is an anchoring partner of the state’s Toward Zero Deaths traffic safety initiative.
Recent OTS Activity
OTS released a study conducted by the University of Minnesota that found the primary seat belt law has resulted in 68 fewer deaths since the law was enacted nearly three years ago.
A statewide distracted driving enforcement effort on April 19 resulted in a 97 texting-while-driving citations. As a means of comparison, there were 3.5 texting citations issued a day on average in 2011.
OTS is coordinating a pilot program, parent-teen driver awareness courses, to educate parents about their responsibilities to train and monitor their new teen driver.
OTS is partnering with AAA Minnesota/Iowa for the eighth year of the Buckle Up Teens! TV Commercial Challenge. Teens create TV PSAs to educate peers. View and vote for the best teen spot at http://rockthebelt.org/buckleupteens/; winner announced May 24.