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Paynesville Press - November 16, 2005

Seatbelt campaign planned by law enforcement for Thanksgiving

Paynesville Police Department officers will be dishing out seatbelt citations during the Thanksgiving holiday as part of a statewide Safe & Sober seatbelt enforcement campaign from Monday, Nov. 21, to Sunday, Nov. 27.

Last year, the Thanksgiving holiday week was one of the deadliest travel periods of the year in the state with 13 motorists killed and 464 injured. Among those killed, five were not wearing seatbelts.

The Minnesota Department of Public Safety's Office of Traffic Safety is coordinating the enforcement campaign, which includes 400 law enforcement agencies statewide.

A previous two-week seatbelt mobilization, in May, resulted in 12,100 seatbelt citations in the state, including two by the Paynesville Police Department.

"Each year, Thanksgiving travels turn tragic, and that means empty chairs around the dinner table," said police officer Chuck Buggs. "Enforcing the seatbelt law is one thing we can do to ensure that Minnesota is moving towards zero deaths on its roads."

A seatbelt ticket in Minnesota costs $25 and can total as much as $115 with administrative costs.

Seatbelt usage in the state is at an all-time high of 84 percent. Still, last year in Stearns County, 17 vehicle occupants died in crashes, and of those nine were not wearing seatbelts. Statewide in 2004, over half of all the 461 vehicle occupants killed were not wearing seatbelts.

The Office of Traffic Safety estimates that half of the deaths in fatal crashes might have been prevented had the occupant been wearing a seatbelt.

Safe & Sober is funded by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The program is designed to reduce traffic-related fatalities and serious injuries.

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