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Not buckling up carries a price

Not wearing a seat belt continues to take a toll – on lives and on the economy as well.

According to the most recent statistics from the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, one life was lost in a crash in Douglas County in 2012 because the person was unbelted. Two other unbelted motorists suffered severe injuries.

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The estimated economic impact of those incidents amounts to more than $1.56 million, according to the DPS.

Between 2008 and 2012, five out of 26 people who were killed in Douglas County crashes were not wearing their seat belts.

The good news: More and more people seem to be getting the message about the importance of buckling up.

In a statewide “Click It or Ticket” enforcement campaign on October 4-19, law enforcement cited 8,297 motorists and passengers for seat belt violations.

That number is down from a similar enforcement effort a year ago when 8,569 motorists received tickets.

The enforcement campaign featured 336 participating law enforcement agencies statewide.

In addition to the seat belt citations, reporting agencies issued 341 citations for child passenger safety seat violations during the campaign.

“Our goal with these seat belt campaigns is to both educate motorists and passengers, and enforce the law in an effort to reinforce safe driving behavior,” said Donna Berger, DPS office of traffic safety director. “Enforcement efforts like this one have served an important purpose by increasing belt compliance to record-high levels.”

Minnesota’s statewide seat belt use rate is at a record-high 94.8 percent, according to DPS’ 2013 observational seat belt use survey. Each year, DPS conducts an observational survey of more than 16,000 motorists across the state.


Unbelted motorists continue to represent a significant number of Minnesota’s traffic fatalities, especially in Greater Minnesota, according to DPS data. In the last three years on Minnesota roads (2010-2012):

•852 motorists died in crashes, of which 361 (42 percent) were not buckled up.

•171 (49 percent) of the 361 unbelted deaths were motorists ages 16–29.

•302 (84 percent) of the 361 unbelted deaths occurred outside the seven-county Twin Cities metro area.


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.


In a crash, odds are six times greater for injury if a motorist is not buckled up, according to the DPS.

In rollover crashes, unbelted motorists are usually ejected from the vehicle. In most cases, the vehicle will roll over the ejected motorist. Often, unbelted motorists will crack teeth out on steering wheels or break their nose, and even slam into and injure or kill others in the vehicle.


Minnesota statute requires children younger than age 8 to ride in a federally approved car seat or booster, unless the child is 4 feet 9 inches or taller. The DPS offers these 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 the child has outgrown the size/weight limit. Keep a child in this restraint as long as possible.

—Booster seats – use once the child has outgrown a forward-facing harnessed restraint; safest to remain in a booster until 4 feet 9 inches tall, or at least age 8. Boosters help seat belts fit properly and are the law in Minnesota.

•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.

Al Edenloff
Al Edenloff is the news and opinion page editor for the Echo Press. He was born in Alexandria and lived most of his childhood in Parkers Prairie. He graduated with honors from Moorhead State University with a degree in mass communications, print journalism. He interned at the Echo Press in the summer of 1983 and was hired a year later as a sports reporter. He also worked as a news reporter/photographer. Al is a four-time winner of the Minnesota Newspaper Association's Herman Roe Award, which honors excellence in editorial writing.  
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