Police, sheriff’s deputies bust six unbuckled motorists during campaign

Published 8:59 am Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Albert Lea Police Department and Freeborn County Sherriff’s Office officers cited six unbelted motorists during a statewide Safe & Sober seat belt enforcement campaign Oct. 10-19. The Minnesota Department of Public Safety coordinated the efforts of more than 400 agencies to increase seat belt use and prevent fatal and serious injury crashes. Special patrols were also employed during the effort to combat unbelted traffic deaths at night resulting in three citations.

“The goal of these enforcement campaigns is to change driver behavior and encourage seat belt use,” says Albert Lea Police Lt. J.D. Carlson. “In many cases, a ticket is the best tool to gain positive results.”

Local agencies presented pre- and post-media campaigns and seat belt surveys intended to educate the public and document usage compliance. Directed patrols were conducted to enhance enforcement compliance. In addition, Albert Lea High School police liaison officer Ted Herman provided educational opportunities. A pre-enhancement seat belt survey was conducted resulting in 73 percent compliance. Following the educational and enhancement phases, survey results were 84 percent compliance.

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The special nighttime patrols were conducted to combat a growing concern of unbelted traffic deaths during nighttime hours (9 p.m. to 3 a.m.). In the last three years in Minnesota, 62 percent of fatal crash victims were not wearing seat belts.

While a majority of Minnesotans buckle up, more than half of the 1,212 vehicle occupants killed and 1,298 vehicle occupants seriously injured in crashes from 2005 to 2007 were not wearing seat belts. The Minnesota 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, nine died, eight of who were unbelted. Another 12 were seriously injured. The estimated economic impact of 20 unbelted deaths and serious injuries in Freeborn County from 2005 to 2007 is $10,096,000.

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. The Toward Zero Death initiative is a multi-agency approach to address traffic issues regionally through enforcement, education, engineering and emergency trauma care.