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Paynesville Press - October 25, 2006

State patrol targeting
seatbelt use in October

The Minnesota State Patrol will conduct enhanced patrols targeting seatbelt use from Saturday, Oct. 21 to Monday, Oct. 30.

The statewide "Click It or Ticket" seatbelt enforcement sweep includes over 400 Minnesota law enforcement agencies and mirrors a May effort that generated more than 12,000 seatbelt citations.

Minnesota State Patrol District 2600 encompasses Wright, Sherburne, Stearns, Meeker, Kandiyohi, Pope, Benton, Todd, Stevens, Swift, Grant, Big Stone, and Traverse counties.

The enforcement campaign is a component of the Toward Zero Deaths initiative, a partnership led by the Minnesota departments of Public Safety, Transportation, and Health, and county engineers. Toward Zero Deaths encourages local stakeholders to address traffic issues through education, enforcement, engineering, and emergency trauma care response.

In Minnesota in 2005, 440 vehicle occupants died in traffic crashes and 225 of those were not wearing seatbelts. Over the past four years (2001-2005), there were 94 total traffic fatalities in Stearns County (of which 36 were not wearing seatbelts) costing an estimated $88.3 million. Kandiyohi County had 52 traffic fatalities in that time (of which 26 were not wearing seatbelts) costing an estimated $54.5 million, and Meeker County had 24 traffic fatalities in that time (of which 14 were not wearing seatbelts) costing an estimated $18.3 million.

Teenagers are the group disproportionately represented in unbelted traffic deaths, according to the Minnesota State Patrol. In the last five years, 279 teen vehicle occupants (ages 15-18) were killed and 166 were not belted. Teen crashes are a special concern to the Minnesota State Patrol now as school activities ramp up and teens make more road trips to football games and other events away from home.

The Minnesota State Patrol stresses that parents of teens set simple rules to ensure seatbelt use and that teens and their peers enforce those rules.

"Too often, we see unbelted teenagers killed in traffic crashes. There may be several reasons for this: peer pressure, forgetfulness, or possibly a sense of invincibility that accompanies the formative years," said Lieutenant Sean Meagher of the Minnesota State Patrol. "Whatever the reason, young drivers should remember that they control the vehicle and should not drive if anyone is not buckled up."

Seatbelt non-use is also a primary cause of traffic fatalities in non-metro regions of the state. Nearly three-quarters of the state's traffic deaths and one-half of the serious injuries occurred on rural roads in 2005 - even though more than half the state's population resides in the seven-county metro area.

Of 351 rural vehicle occupant traffic deaths in 2005, 185 were not wearing seat belts.

The Safe & Sober enforcement effort is coordinated by the Department of Public Safety. Previous targeted patrols have helped increase Minnesota's seatbelt-use rate from 79 percent to 84 percent over the last four years.

A belt citation costs $25 and can increase to as much as $115 with court costs and added fees.

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