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More than 5,000 motorists ticketed midway through seat belt crack-down

Midway through a statewide increased seat belt enforcement campaign, participating law enforcement agencies have preliminary reported citing 5,196 motorists for seat belt violations. The increased enforcement runs through Oct. 28. The Minnesota Department of Public Safety (DPS) Office of Traffic Safety is coordinating the effort that began on Oct. 8.

Nearly 200 of the 400 participating agencies reported mid-enforcement citation totals. A seat belt citation can cost more than $100.

"The focus of the increased belt patrols is to increase seat belt compliance to reduce preventable deaths and life-altering injuries," says Cheri Marti, DPS Office of Traffic Safety director. "A simple way to avoid a ticket is for drivers and passengers to self-enforce the belt law and insist everyone is belted in."

Each year, unbelted motorists account for more than one-half of all vehicle occupants killed. In Minnesota during 2007-2009, more than 1,000 motorists were killed in crashes and only 43 percent were belted. Annually, nearly 80 percent of unbelted traffic deaths occur on Greater Minnesota roads. DPS reports odds are six-times greater for injury if a motorist is not buckled up.

Officers are enforcing the state's primary seat belt law during the campaign, which allows law enforcement to stop and ticket motorists or passengers for belt violations. The campaign also includes enforcement of Minnesota's strengthened child passenger safety law that requires children to be in the correct restraint until they are age 8 or 4 feet 9 inches tall, whichever comes first. This law requires booster seats for children usually starting at age 4; boosters help adult seat belts fit children correctly.

DPS reminds motorists to wear seat belts correctly: belts should be low and snug across the hips; shoulder straps should never be tucked under an arm or behind the back.

The seat belt enforcement is a component of the state's core traffic safety initiative, Toward Zero Deaths (TZD). TZD focuses on the application of four strategic areas to reduce crashes -- education, enforcement, engineering and emergency trauma response. The goal of the program is 400 or fewer deaths by the end of 2010. To-date, there have been 328 traffic deaths in Minnesota compared to 335 deaths at this time in 2009.