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Ejected: Half of unbelted traffic deaths thrown from vehicle

More than half of the state's unbelted traffic deaths are ejected from the vehicle, according to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety (DPS) Office of Traffic Safety.

Officials say the high ejection rate is another reason to belt up as motorists drive into the final weekend of statewide Click It Or Ticket enforcement. Since the start of the campaign May 20, more than 4,000 motorists have been cited for seat belt non-use (preliminary).

In Minnesota during 2010-2012, 189 of the 361 unbelted crash victims (52 percent) killed in crashes were ejected. The statistic highlights the force and violence of crashes, and the importance of seat belts, officials say.

"The role of a seat belt is to keep you safely inside the vehicle compartment and prevent you from getting thrown around the vehicle and slammed into other passengers," says Donna Berger DPS Office of Traffic Safety director. "In rollover crashes, a vehicle will often roll over an ejected motorist."

On May 25, an unbelted 19-year-old was involved in a crash on I-94 in Douglas County and was ejected and killed. Another vehicle occupant in the same vehicle was belted had injuries that were not life threatening.

Age Groups with Most Unbelted and Ejected Deaths, 2010-2012

There were 361 unbelted deaths during this period and 189 of the victims were ejected.

· 15-24 year olds -- 61 unbelted and ejected deaths, representing nearly one-third of all unbelted, ejected deaths.

· 25-34 year olds -- 48 unbelted and ejected deaths (25 percent of unbelted, ejected deaths).

· 40-49 year olds -- 33 unbelted and ejected deaths (17 percent of the unbelted, ejected deaths).

Underscoring the importance of child car seats and booster seats, of the 15 children ages 0-8 killed during 2010-2012, at least five were not restrained properly and two were ejected. Children under age 8 must ride in a federally approved car seat or booster, unless the child is 4 feet 9 inches or taller.

Drivers, Passengers -- Including in the Back Seat -- Must Be Belted

In Minnesota, drivers and passengers in all seating positions, including in the back seat, are required to be buckled up or seated in the correct child restraint. Officers will stop and ticket unbelted drivers or passengers. Seat belts must be worn correctly -- low and snug across the hips; shoulder straps should never be tucked under an arm or behind the back.

Minnesota Child Car Seat Law and Steps

Minnesota statute requires children under age 8 to ride in a federally approved car seat or booster, unless the child is 4 feet 9 inches or taller. Here are the restraint steps a child should progress through as they age and grow:

· Rear-facing infant seats -- Newborns to at least 1 year and 20 pounds; recommended up to age 2. It is safest to keep a child rear-facing as long as possible.

· Forward-facing toddler seats -- Age 2 until around age 4. It's preferable to keep children in a harnessed restraint as long as possible.

· Booster seats -- Use once outgrown a forward-facing harnessed restraint; safest to remain in a booster until 4 feet 9 inches tall, or at least age 8.

· Seat belts -- A child is ready for an adult seat belt when they can sit with their back against the vehicle seat, knees bent comfortably and completely over the vehicle seat edge without slouching, and feet touching the floor. Children 4 feet 9 inches tall or taller can correctly fit in a lap/shoulder belt.