Seat belt use enforced in Oct.

Published 8:51 am Tuesday, November 2, 2010

During the October statewide Click It or Ticket enforcement effort, Albert Lea officers and Freeborn County Sheriff’s Office deputies combined to issue nine seat belt and two child restraint citations. Around 400 law enforcement agencies statewide participated in the Minnesota Department of Public Safety Office of Traffic Safety enforcement effort aimed at increasing seat belt and child restraint use among motorists. Each year in Minnesota, unbelted motorists account for more than one-half of all motorist deaths.

“Enforcing seat belt use is not just the job of law enforcement, it’s up to every motorist to speak up and tell your passengers to belt up,” said Albert Lea Police Lt. J.D. Carlson. “Unbelted motorists are not just endangering themselves. In a crash an unbelted passenger can slam into and injure others in the vehicle.”

During the last three years in Minnesota, more than 1,000 motorists were killed in crashes and only 43 percent were buckled up. During this same time period in Freeborn County 20 motorists were killed in traffic crashes and seven were not belted. Another five unbelted motorists were seriously injured.

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During the campaign, officers enforced the state’s primary seat belt law that requires passengers in all seating positions, including the back seat, to be buckled up or seated in the correct child restraint. Law enforcement officers stopped and ticket motorists for seat belt violations, including unbelted passengers. A seat belt fine is $25 but can cost more than $100 with court and administrative fees.

The campaign also included enforcement of Minnesota’s strengthened child passenger safety law that requires children to be in the correct restraint until they are age 8 and 4 feet 9 inches tall. This law requires booster seats for kids usually starting at age 4 to ensure adult seat belts fit them correctly.

Special nighttime belt patrols conducted during the campaign resulted in six citations. Albert Lea police focused on nighttime patrols to combat a disproportionate number of unbelted traffic deaths during nighttime hours.

Albert Lea Police Department conducted a seat belt observational survey prior to the seat belt enforcement in Albert Lea and reported 94 percent of motorists were belted. In a post-enforcement survey, belt use was 92 percent. Consistent local survey results 90 percent and higher are a significant improvement to previous years.

The seat belt enforcement campaign is a component of the state’s Toward Zero Death initiative. Toward Zero Deaths is the state’s core traffic safety program that uses a multidisciplinary approach to address traffic issues regionally through enforcement, education, engineering and emergency trauma care. The goal of the program is 400 or fewer road deaths by 2010.