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13,302 ticketed in October statewide for not wearing seat belts

An enhanced statewide seat belt enforcement campaign that ran October 8-28, resulted in 13,302 seat belt tickets.

The Minnesota Department of Public Safety (DPS) Office of Traffic Safety coordinated the effort among 400 law enforcement agencies to increase seat belt compliance. A seat belt citation can cost more than $100.

A similar campaign in October 2009 resulted in more than 10,000 tickets.

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.

"These enforcement efforts have served an important purpose by increasing belt compliance to record-high levels," says Cheri Marti, DPS Office of Traffic Safety director. "A ticket is the most effective route to change a driver's behavior to establish a seat belt use habit."

Of the total ticket count, 3,299 citations were written during nighttime hours. Nighttime enforcement continues to be important as each year 60 percent of the motorists killed during 9 p.m.-3 a.m. are not buckled up. Another 254 parents/caregivers were cited for improper or lack of child safety restraint use.

Minnesota's primary seat belt law requires belt use for drivers and all passengers, including the back seat. Law enforcement will stop and ticket motorists or passengers for belt violations. The state's strengthened child passenger safety law 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.

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 350 traffic deaths in Minnesota compared to 346 deaths at this time in 2009.