ST. PAUL – Buckling up in a vehicle is an automatic move for most Minnesotans and people across the country, and it works. The lives saved by seat belts nationwide would fill a professional sports stadium - more than 69,000 people (2015-2019) according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
But with unbelted deaths in Minnesota outpacing previous years, law enforcement statewide will be conducting extra seat belt patrols May 24 through June 6 to stop the growing loss of life. The Minnesota Department of Public Safety Office of Traffic Safety coordinates the campaign with funding provided by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Preliminary reports show 38 unbelted motorists died as of May 21 compared with 25 this time last year, a 52 percent increase. This follows a deadly 2020 when 112 unbelted motorists died on Minnesota roads compared to 73 in 2019. The 112 unbelted motorist deaths in 2020 were also the highest since 2012 (116).
“Would you like the lecture or the eulogy?” said Mike Hanson, Office of Traffic Safety director. “Sadly, the number of grieving families hearing the eulogies is way too high when you consider how these deaths can be so easily prevented. If you want to be there for your loved ones, stop with the weak excuses for not wearing a seat belt. Drive smart and buckle up.”
You Never Get Over Ejection
Most Minnesotans are making the life-saving decision to buckle up. According to the 2019 Minnesota Observational Seat Belt Survey, 93.4 percent of front seat occupants are wearing their seat belts. The rest are gambling with their lives and the lives of others in the vehicle by riding unbelted.
Good Decisions Are a Lifesaver
- In 1987, 4,176 vehicle occupants suffered severe injuries in traffic crashes. That number dropped to 1,056 in 2020.
- In 2020:
- The highest number of unbelted fatalities (12) of 15-19-year-olds since 2011 (20).
- The highest number of unbelted fatalities (32) of 25-39-year-olds since 2012 (36).
- 79 percent of the unbelted deaths occurred in Greater Minnesota (outside the seven-county metro area).
- Adults must take the time to correctly use child restraints, teach children the value of buckling up and model seat belt use. From 2016-2020:
- 20 children (ages 0-7) were killed in motor vehicles.
- Eight of the victims were properly secured, eight were not properly restrained, and restraint use was unknown in four fatalities.
- Of the 87 children (ages 0-7) seriously injured in motor vehicles, 49 percent were known to be properly secured.
Click It or Ticket: the Law is for Safety
Minnesota law states that drivers and passengers in all seating positions must wear seat belts or be in the correct child restraint. Occupants must correctly wear seat belts low and snug across the hips, and they should never tuck straps under an arm or behind the back. If you are unbuckled, expect to be stopped.
Minnesota Child Car Seat Law Protects Young Lives
In crashes from 2016-2020, of the 15,670 children ages 0-7 that were properly restrained, 88 percent were not injured while another 9 percent sustained only possible injuries. 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 - School-age children who have reached the height and weight limits of the forward-facing seat can sit on a booster seat. It must be used with a lap and shoulder belt.
- Seat belts - Children 8 years old or have reached 4 feet 9 inches tall can buckle up with seat belts. 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. These efforts form a strong foundation for the statewide Toward Zero Deaths traffic safety program. DPS-OTS also administers state funds for the motorcycle safety program and for the child seats for needy families program.