Click It or Ticket, seriously

Published on Wednesday, 30 November -0001 00:00
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Heightened seat belt enforcement starts May 24; officers can stop motorists solely for seat belt violations

The Meeker County Sheriff's Office applied for and received a $2,500 grant administered through the Minnesota Office of Traffic Safety, Safe and Sober Campaign. Meeker County deputies and law enforcement throughout the state ramp up enhanced Click It or Ticket seat belt patrols May 24ÐJune 6. The campaign marks one year since the state's primary seat belt law became effective June 9, 2009, allowing law enforcement to stop and ticket motorists solely for seat belt violations.

The primary law requires passengers in all seating positions, including the back seat, to be buckled up or seated in the correct child restraint. A seat belt fine in Meeker County is $115. The campaign will also include enforcement of Minnesota's strengthened child passenger safety law that requires children to be in the correct restraint until they are age 8 and 4 feet 9 inches tall. This law requires booster seats for kids usually starting at age 4 to ensure adult seat belts fit them correctly.

"Our wish is to not have to write any seat belt tickets, but that's not reality," says Sheriff Jeff Norlin. "Despite progress in increasing belt use, it's clear that far too many motorists continue to not buckle up, and as a result, put themselves and others in the vehicle at risk in case of crash."

Sheriff Norlin notes that in rollover crashes, unbelted motorists are usually ejected from the vehicle. In most cases, the vehicle will roll over them. In less severe crashes, unbelted motorists also can suffer a host of other injuries, and even slam into and injure others in the vehicle. "Enforcement of this law starts with you. Insist that your passengers are buckled up," says Sheriff Norlin.

Each year, unbelted motorists account for more than one-half of all vehicle occupants killed. Belt use is especially an issue in Greater Minnesota communities. Annually, nearly 80 percent of unbelted traffic deaths occur on Greater Minnesota roads. Belt use is especially poor among teens and young adults. Statewide each year, motorist's age 15Ð29 account for 45 percent of all unbelted deaths, yet this group represents only 25 percent of licensed drivers. This same age group accounts for 55 percent of all unbelted serious injuries, 70 percent occur in Greater Minnesota.

During 2006Ð2008 in Meeker County, eight motorists were killed in traffic crashes and three were not belted. Another 14 unbelted motorists were seriously injured. The estimated economic impact from these unbelted fatalities and severe injury crashes is $4,300,500.

In Minnesota during 2006Ð2008, 1,097 motorists were killed in crashes and 539 were unbelted; 1,152 unbelted motorists were seriously injured. According to DPS, preliminary 2009 numbers indicate unbelted deaths accounted for at least 140 deaths, more than one-half of motorists killed.

Cathy Peters

Meeker County Sheriff's Office

(320) 693-5421