Editorial - New seat belt law makes an impactWe already have too many laws on the books that aren’t working so it’s refreshing to hear about one that appears to be making a difference. According to a new study released this week, Minnesota’s primary seat belt law resulted in 68 fewer deaths and 320 fewer severe injuries from 2009 to 2011.
We already have too many laws on the books that aren’t working so it’s refreshing to hear about one that appears to be making a difference.
According to a new study released this week, Minnesota’s primary seat belt law resulted in 68 fewer deaths and 320 fewer severe injuries from 2009 to 2011.
The study was conducted by the University of Minnesota’s Center for Excellence in Rural Safety (CERS) on behalf of the Department of Public Safety (DPS). It also found that the reduction in deaths and injuries has resulted in $45 million dollars in avoided hospital charges, including nearly $10 million in taxpayer dollars that would have paid for Medicare and Medicaid charges.
“The primary seat belt law has advanced traffic safety in Minnesota by saving lives and preventing serious injuries,” Minnesota Public Safety Commissioner Mona Dohman said. “The findings of this study reminds us again how vital it is for Minnesotans to buckle up – every seat, every ride.”
The state’s new seat belt law went into effect in June 2009. Prior to that, not wearing a seat belt was a secondary offense, which allowed law enforcement officers to ticket for failure to wear seat belts, but only when there was another moving violation. Under the new law, officers can ticket drivers for not wearing a seat belt without any other law being broken. Currently, 32 states have primary seat belt laws.
According to the CERS study, more Minnesotans are buckling up since the primary law went into effect. Observed seat belt use in the state has increased from 87 percent in 2008 to 93 percent in 2011. Also, a survey of Minnesotans shows the support of the law increased from 62 percent just before the law was passed to more than 70 percent since it was passed.
Although the stronger new law appears to be making a difference, there’s still cause for concern. There has been a spike in road crash deaths this year, reversing a fatality decline during the past decade. So far this year, there have been 66 deaths on Minnesota roads, compared to 47 at this time last year. Officials say one of the factors for the increase in deaths include the warmer winter that’s resulted in motorists traveling at faster, unsafe speeds.
If the new law isn’t enough to convince every driver to buckle up, perhaps these statistics from the DPS will:
• In 2010 (the most recent final data), of the 305 vehicle occupants killed in 2010, just 148 were belted; 55 percent of those not belted were ejected.
• Properly wearing a seat belt reduces the risk of fatal injury to front seat passenger occupants by 45 percent in a car and 60 percent in a light truck.
• Seat belts are the most effective means of protecting oneself from injury while riding in a vehicle. In a crash, odds are six-times greater for injury if a motorist is not buckled up.
• Annually, nearly 75 percent of unbelted traffic deaths occur on Greater Minnesota roads.
• Minnesotans that are least likely to buckle up and more likely to die in crashes are young drivers, particularly males and residents in Greater Minnesota. Each year, motorists ages 15 to 29 account for about 40 percent of all unbelted deaths and 50 percent of all unbelted serious injuries, yet this group represents only 24 percent of all licensed drivers.
• Children younger than age 13 should always ride in the back seat. Children who have outgrown a forward-facing harness restraint should ride in a booster seat until they are 4-feet, 9-inches tall.