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Extra enforcement nets fewer people with seat-belt citations

Troopers, officers and deputies are seeing a trend on Minnesota roads — motorists choosing to put safety first. 

During October’s Click It or Ticket campaign, law enforcement reported 5,550 motorists were cited for seat belt violations from Oct. 9-25, a 33 percent drop from last year’s October wave when 8,195 motorists were ticketed and the lowest since 2010. The Minnesota State Patrol wrote 2,032 of the seat-belt citations.

Local agencies participated in the extra enforcement, issuing seat-belt citations: Woodbury, 32; Washington County Sheriff’s Office, 17; Cottage Grove, 10; St. Paul Park, 10; Newport, zero. 

Across Minnesota, 320 law enforcement agencies wrote 128 child-seat citations, down from 219 last year at this time. The two local agencies wrote none.

The significant decline in seat belt citations is a step in the right direction, according to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety. 

“With 94 percent seat belt compliance for front seat occupants, we know lives are being saved,” Donna Berger, Office of Traffic Safety director, said in a press release. “Still, with half of Minnesota road deaths attributed to unbelted motorists, that means too many people are gambling with their lives by not buckling up.”

Minnesota law states that drivers and passengers in all seating positions must be buckled up or seated in the correct child restraint. Under Minnesota law, officers can stop and ticket unbelted drivers or passengers. Seat belts must be worn correctly — low and snug across the hips, and shoulder straps should never be tucked under an arm or behind the back.

In Minnesota, all children must be in a child restraint until they are 4-foot-9 tall, or at least age 8, whichever comes first.

Rear-facing child seats are required for newborns to age 1 and 20 pounds.

Seat belts only should be used when children can sit with their back against the vehicle seat and have their knees bent comfortably over the edge with their feet touching the floor.

A few other DPS updates: 

  • Officers, deputies and troopers made 1,513 arrests during the enhanced DWI enforcement campaign Aug. 21 through Sept. 7. That’s compared with 1,340 during the campaign a year ago.
  • Increased fines for repeat texting-while-driving offenders went into effect Aug. 1. Under the enhanced law, drivers face a $225 fine for second and subsequent violations of the texting while driving law, in addition to the current $50 fine. The $275 fine, plus court fees, can cost an offender more than $300.
  • Minnesota Motor Vehicle Crash Facts 2014 is a summary of traffic crashes derived from law enforcement reports and describes how, why and where crashes occurred and who was involved.