Albert Lea motorists to face enhanced seat belt enforcement patrols

Published 12:00 am Saturday, May 17, 2008

To combat an annual Minnesota death toll of around 200 unbelted motorists, Albert Lea Police Department officers will ramp up patrols Monday through June 1 for a statewide Minnesota Department of Public Safety Safe & Sober &8220;Click It or Ticket&8221; seat belt enforcement sweep.

The enforcement effort is a nationwide campaign and will include about 400 agencies participating statewide, including the Albert Lea Police Department.

The enforcement leads into the summer driving season, the deadliest time on the roads. A seat belt citation is $25 but can cost as much as $115 with court and administrative fees.

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&8220;Unbelted traffic deaths and serious injuries impact every community in the state, including ours,&8221; said Lt. J.D. Carlson. &8220;When you&8217;re not belted, your chances of surviving a crash are cut in half.&8221;

Unbelted motorists account for over half of all vehicle occupant deaths each year.

During 2004 through 2006 in Minnesota, there were 1,274 vehicle occupants killed in crashes and 658 were not wearing seat belts. The Department of Public Safety estimates around half of those killed would have survived if they were buckled up. In the last three years in Freeborn County, 11 motorists died, eight of who were unbelted. Another 18 unbelted motorists were seriously injured during this period.

The estimated economic impact of unbelted deaths and serious injuries in Freeborn in 2004 through 2006 is $10,062,000.

Albert Lea Police Department will also conduct special nighttime seat belt enforcement patrols. Department of Public Safety data reports from 2004 through 2006 data state there were 306 vehicle occupant traffic deaths during nighttime hours (9 p.m. to 3 a.m.) and 202 of those &8212; 66 percent &8212; were not belted.

Another focus of the campaign is teens &8212; the group with the lowest seat belt use compliance, and as a result is overrepresented in traffic deaths.

During 2004 through 2006 in Minnesota, 204 motorists ages 16 to 19 were killed in crashes and 98 were unbelted.

&8220;We are calling on teens to speak up and tell their friends to buckle up,&8221; Carlson said.

The Safe & Sober

effort is coordinated by the Department of Public Safety Office of Traffic Safety as a component of the state&8217;s Toward Zero Death initiative. Toward Zero Death is a multi-agency approach to address traffic issues regionally through enforcement, education, engineering and emergency trauma care and response.