Mower County cracks down on seatbelt violations

Published 7:17 am Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Austin Police Department and the Mower County Sheriff’s office ticketed 90 people combined for failing to wear their seatbelts during a 20-day statewide seatbelt enforcement campaign in October.

Of the 90 citations, 71 were given for seatbelt and child seat offenses during the day and 19 were given for nighttime violations.

The campaign ran from Oct. 8-28 and was coordinated by the Minnesota Department of Public Safety (DPS).

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The Minnesota State Legislature made it illegal in 2009 to drive or ride in a vehicle without wearing a seatbelt; a seatbelt citation is $25 but amounts to over $100 after court and administrative fees.

Daytime seatbelt use has seen a steady increase over the last decade, according to the DPS. A decade ago only 73 percent of drivers or passengers wore their belts, whereas 90 and 92 percent of people have buckled up in 2009 and 2010, respectively.

Statewide the campaign involved more than 400 law enforcement agencies and issued 13,302 tickets.

The campaign is meant to encourage motorists to buckle up not only because it’s the law, but as a safety precaution. The DPS reported that more than 60 percent of people killed in motor vehicle accidents between 9 p.m. and 5 a.m. are not wearing seatbelts.

Teenagers are also less likely to buckle up, especially in areas of greater Minnesota including the southeastern portion of the state. Between 2005 and 2009, 30 teens were killed in car accidents in southeastern Minnesota — of those, only 10 were wearing their seatbelts.

However, during that time, Mower County did not see any teen deaths caused by car accidents.

DPS officials said in a press release that it is their goal to keep Minnesota traffic fatalities below 400 for 2010. As of Nov. 4, there had been 350 deaths for the year. Since 2003, traffic fatalities have been reduced by 35 percent, with 655 deaths in 2003 and 421 in 2009.

Between 2008 and 2009, when the seatbelt law came into play, motor vehicle deaths saw a 7 percent drop.