Law enforcement begins Safe & Sober sweep

Published 2:13 pm Saturday, October 11, 2008

While Minnesota motorists are buckling up more than ever, unbelted motorists still account for nearly half of all traffic deaths. To prevent unbelted traffic deaths, Albert Lea Police Department officers will conduct enhanced patrols beginning Friday and going through Oct. 19 during a statewide Safe & Sober “Click It or Ticket” seat belt enforcement sweep.

Around 400 agencies statewide will participate in the campaign administered by the state Department of Public Safety, including the Albert Lea Police Department and the Freeborn County Sherriff’s Office. A seat belt citation in Freeborn County is $25 but can cost as much as $115 with court and administrative fees.

During 2005 to 2007 in Minnesota, 1,212 vehicle occupants were killed in crashes and 614 were not wearing seat belts. Another 1,298 vehicle occupants were seriously injured because they were not belted during this period. The Department of Public Safety estimates around half of those killed would have survived if they were belted.

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In the last three years in Freeborn County, nine died and eight were unbelted. Another 12 unbelted motorists were seriously injured during this period. The estimated economic impact of 20 unbelted deaths and serious injuries in Freeborn County during 2005-07 was $10,096,000.

Albert Lea Police Department will also conduct special nighttime seat belt enforcement patrols during the effort. Department of Public Safety 2005-07 data reports there were 296 vehicle occupant traffic deaths during nighttime hours

(9 p.m. to 3 a.m.) and 184 of the traffic crash victims — 62 percent — were not belted.

Another focus of the campaign is teens, the group with the lowest seat belt use compliance, who as a result is overrepresented in traffic deaths. During 2005-07 in Minnesota, 149 motorists ages 16 to 19 were killed in crashes and 75 were unbelted.

“When teens ride together, it’s important someone speaks up and tells their friends to buckle up,” says Lt. J.D. Carlson with the Albert Lea Police Department. “It’s that simple to potentially save someone’s life.”

In a similar seat belt enforcement effort in May 2008 the Albert Lea Police Department and Freeborn County Sheriff’s Office issued a combined 29 seat belt citations.

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