Editorial: Rural drivers especially need seat belts

Published 12:00 am Saturday, August 3, 2002

The importance of seat-belt use is nothing new, but some new figures from the Minnesota Department of Public safety should be an eye-opener &045; especially for rural residents.

While it is easy to assume that most traffic accidents happen in the Twin Cities metro area &045; where 54 percent of the state’s population lives &045; the reality is that two-thirds of the state’s traffic fatalities happened on rural road in 2001, and more than half of the severe-injury accidents were in rural areas.

Why? The department has a theory: Seat-belt use is higher in the Twin Cities. Some counties have seat-belt usage rates as low as 50 percent, significantly below the 74 percent state average.

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Seat-belt use, the department says, decreases the likelihood of dying in a traffic accident by 50 percent. In rural areas, seat-belt use is even more important because of the higher instance of undivided two-lane roads, narrow shoulders and limited lines of vision.

This may be the only statistic you need to know: Although an average of 26 percent of Minnesotans don’t wear seat belts, non-seat-belt users accounted for around two-thirds of 2001 traffic fatalities. That should make anybody who isn’t in the habit of buckling up think twice.