'Click It or Ticket' enforcement effort results in 157 citationsDuring the statewide Click it or Ticket enforcement effort May 24 through June 6, the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office and Alexandria Police Department generated 156 seat belt and one child restraint citations.
During the statewide Click it or Ticket enforcement effort May 24 through June 6, the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office and Alexandria Police Department generated 156 seat belt and one child restraint citations.
More than 400 law enforcement agencies statewide participated in the Minnesota Department of Public Safety (DPS) coordinated 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 buckle,” said Douglas County Deputy Sheriff Brandon Chaffins.
Alexandria Police Department Sergeant Kevin Guenther stressed that, “Unbelted motorists are not just endangering themselves. In a crash, an unbelted passenger can slam into and injure others in the vehicle.”
The campaign was the first major enforcement of the primary seat belt law this year and marks the one-year anniversary of it becoming effective on June 9, 2009. The primary law requires passengers in all seating positions, including the back seat, to be buckled up or seated in the correct child restraint.
Law enforcement officers can stop and ticket motorists solely for seat belt violations, including unbelted passengers.
A seat belt fine is $25 but can cost more than $100 with court and administrative fees. In Douglas County, the fine amount for a seat belt citation is $110.
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.
The sheriff’s office conducted a seat belt observational survey prior to the seat belt enforcement in Douglas County and reported 89 percent of motorists were belted. In a post-enforcement survey, belt use jumped to 92 percent.
Special nighttime belt patrols conducted during the campaign resulted in 80 citations. Both agencies focused on nighttime patrols to combat a disproportionate number of unbelted traffic deaths during nighttime hours.
During 2006-2008, 64 percent of nighttime (9 p.m. to 3 a.m.) fatal crash victims were not wearing seat belts.
On May 28, the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office, Alexandria Police Department and Minnesota State Patrol coordinated enforcement efforts by working a nighttime seat belt enforcement.
This was a high visibility saturation effort and a first of its kind for the sheriff’s office and police department. Officers were outside their patrol cars, wearing full uniforms and were standing in plain view at the intersections of 6th Avenue East and Nokomis Street and Broadway Street at 10th Avenue in Alexandria.
Violators were flagged to pull over if they were not wearing their seat belts. There were also officers in patrol cars that would stop vehicles if the violators did not pull over.
Despite efforts of someone putting up a sign that warned of the enforcement activity ahead, the night was very successful, according to law enforcement leaders. A total of 68 seat belt citations were issued. A child seat violation, two driving-after-revocation violations, a stop light violation and one vehicle impound were other enforcement actions taken.
Each year, unbelted motorists account for more than half of all vehicle occupants killed. Non-belt use is especially an issue in Greater Minnesota communities. Annually, nearly 80 percent of unbelted traffic deaths occur on Greater Minnesota roads.
Belt use is especially poor among teens and young adults. Statewide each year, motorists ages 15-29 account for 45 percent of all unbelted deaths, yet this group represents only 25 percent of licensed drivers.
This same age group accounts for 55 percent of all unbelted serious injuries – 70 percent occur in Greater Minnesota.
During 2006-2008 in Douglas County, 21 motorists were killed and six were not belted. Another eight unbelted motorists were seriously injured.