ST. PAUL – In November 2015, 3-year-old Havana Bodell was paralyzed with a broken neck, on a ventilator to breathe and wearing a halo to keep her head and neck from moving after a drunk driver hit the family’s vehicle in Isanti County. She is now walking — a remarkable recovery made possible by her mother Erica’s decision to properly secure her daughter in a child safety seat before driving.
To help ensure Minnesotans like Havana have the best chance of surviving a crash, more than 300 law enforcement agencies will be participating in the statewide Click It or Ticket extra enforcement campaign Sept. 16 – 28. The campaign reminds people that expecting the unexpected — the drunk driver, the distracted driver, the deer suddenly appearing on the road — will help them stay alive if they buckle up and protect their children with the correct safety seat.
“A simple car seat helped stop a drunk driver from forever taking my Havana away from me,” said Erica Bodell. “Doctors were concerned she may never walk again. It’s been a very tough recovery, but that car seat gave Havana a chance to be a little girl again. That crash could’ve killed her, her two brothers and me, but I’m convinced that the car seat and seat belts are why we’re alive today.”
Right Choices Lead to Lives Saved
Wearing a seat belt and using the proper child safety seat increases the likelihood that motorists survive a traffic crash.
- Of the 17,237 children ages 0-7 who were properly restrained in a crash during the last five years, 87 percent were not injured.
- The primary seat belt law requires drivers and passengers in all seating positions to buckle up or be seated in the correct child restraint. In the five years (2004-2008) leading up to the law, 51 percent of all fatalities (1,008) were known to be unbelted motorists. In the last five years (2014-2018), that number decreased to 34 percent (446).
- A year prior to the primary seat belt law (2008), 152 unbelted motorists lost their lives on Minnesota roads. In 2018, that number decreased to 96, which was the most deaths since 2014 (106).
Minnesotans gamble with their lives and the lives of their children by making the wrong choice.
- During the last five years, 18 children (ages 0 - 7) were killed in motor vehicles and only seven of the victims were known to be properly secured (six were not properly restrained, and restraint use was unknown in five fatalities).
- 71 percent of the unbelted deaths occurred in Greater Minnesota (outside the seven-county metro area).
“For motorists who don’t buckle up — sometimes it’s stubbornness. Sometimes it’s forgetfulness. Sometimes it’s the feeling of invincibility and thinking you’re in total control of what happens on the road,” said Mike Hanson, Office of Traffic Safety director. “Whatever the reason, it can kill you. Be smart and take a couple of seconds to click it.”
Speak Up about Buckling Up
The 2019 Minnesota Seat Belt Survey shows 93.4 percent compliance for front-seat occupants, a slight increase over 2018 (92.4 percent). Drivers can help close the gap by refusing to start the car until every passenger is belted. Passengers can speak up and challenge others in the car to be safe. If the driver is unbuckled, refuse to ride in the car until they strap on their seat belt.
Sometimes the excuse may be — “It’s not like drunk driving, because I’m only hurting myself if I don’t wear a seat belt.” That excuse doesn’t work. An unbelted motorist can get thrown into other passengers, injuring or killing them. Loved ones left behind after an unbelted fatality will hurt from the pain and emptiness of an easily preventable death.
The Law is for Safety
Minnesota law states that drivers and passengers in all seating positions must be buckled 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, and shoulder straps should never be tucked under an arm or behind the back.
Minnesota Child Car Seat Law and Steps
- In Minnesota, all children must be in a child restraint until they are 4 feet 9 inches tall, or at least age 8, whichever comes first.
• Rear-facing seats - All infants and toddlers should ride in a rear-facing car seat until they have reached the height and weight limits allowed by the car seat manufacturer.
- Forward-facing seats with harness - Toddlers and preschoolers who have reached the height and weight limits of the rear-facing car seat should use a forward-facing seat with harness until they reach the weight limit of the harness allowed by the car seat manufacturer.
- Booster seats - For school-age children who have reached the height and weight limits of the forward-facing seat. The booster must be used with a lap and shoulder belt.
- Seat belts - For children 8 years old or have reached 4 feet 9 inches. Your child is ready for an adult seat belt when they can sit with their back against the vehicle seat, knees bent comfortably and completely over the vehicle seat edge without slouching, and feet touching the floor.
About the Minnesota Department Public Safety
DPS comprises 11 divisions where 2,100 employees operate programs in the areas of law enforcement, crime victim assistance, traffic safety, alcohol and gambling, emergency communications, fire safety, pipeline safety, driver licensing, vehicle registration and emergency management. DPS activity is anchored by three core principles: education, enforcement and prevention.
About the Office of Traffic Safety
The Minnesota Department of Public Safety Office of Traffic Safety (DPS-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. DPS-OTS also administers state funds for the motorcycle safety program and for the child seats for needy families program.
DPS-OTS is an anchoring partner of the state’s Toward Zero Deaths (TZD)
traffic safety program. 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 medical and trauma response.
Recent DPS-OTS Activity and Statistics
- Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day, known as the 100 deadliest days on Minnesota roads, again proved to be a tragic time in 2019. There were 132 deaths this summer, including a two-car crash that took six lives. More than half of the traffic fatalities so far this year occurred during this period.
- There were 381 lives lost on Minnesota roads, according to the Minnesota Motor Vehicle Crash Facts 2018 report. While Minnesota saw a 6 percent increase in traffic fatalities from 2017 (358), the state continues to see a downward trend in traffic fatalities over five-year periods. From 2009-2013, Minnesota saw an average of 396 deaths per year. In the last five years, there has been an average of 381 deaths, a 4 percent decrease.
- To help reduce fatalities and injuries on Minnesota roads, drivers in Minnesota can no longer hold a phone in their hand while behind the wheel. The hands-free cell phone bill, which was signed into law in April, took effect on Aug. 1.
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