Officers, deputies cite 170 for seat belt violations

Published 9:39 am Friday, June 10, 2011

During the May 25 through June 5 statewide Click It or Ticket enforcement effort, Albert Lea Police Department officers and Freeborn County Sherriff’s Office deputies combined to issue 167 seat belt and three child restraint citations, is an increase over last October’s 11 total.

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.”

Email newsletter signup

From 2007-2009 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. To date this year, Minnesota has had 108 traffic deaths, compared to 148 at this time in 2010.

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 ticketed 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 31 citations. Local agencies 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 78 percent of motorists were belted (this is 14 percent less than the October 2010 post-enforcement survey). The 2011 post-enforcement survey belt use results were 92% for the second year in a row.

Rural Freeborn County informal seat belt survey results were 73 percent pre-enhancement and 78 percent post-enhancement.

The Click It or Ticket seat belt enforcement campaign is a component of the state’s Toward Zero Death initiative. A primary vision of the program is to create a safe driving culture in Minnesota in which motorists support a goal of zero road fatalities by practicing and promoting safe and smart driving behavior. It focuses on the application of four strategic areas to reduce crashes — education, enforcement, engineering and emergency trauma response.