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More enforcement of seat belt laws planned on Minnesota roadways

To combat an annual Minnesota death toll of around 200 unbelted motorists the Minnesota State Patrol will ramp up patrols May 19-June 1 for a statewide Minnesota Department of Public Safety (DPS) Safe & Sober "Click It or Ticket" seat belt enforcement sweep.

The enforcement effort is a nationwide campaign and will include about 400 agencies participating statewide. The enforcement leads into the summer driving season, the deadliest time on the roads. A seat belt citation is $25 but can cost as much as $115 with court and administrative fees.

According to Trooper Andy Schmidt, "When you're not belted, your chances of surviving a crash are cut in half."

Unbelted motorists account for over half of all vehicle occupant deaths each year. During 2004-06 in Minnesota there were 1,274 vehicle occupants killed in crashes and 658 were not wearing seat belts. DPS estimates around half of those killed would have survived if they were buckled up.

In the last three years in the counties that make up the Detroit Lakes district of the Minnesota State Patrol, the number of vehicle occupant deaths was; Becker-11, Clay-19, Douglas-21, Grant-3, Mahnomen-1, Norman-2, Otter Tail-19, Todd-18, Wadena-5 and Wilkin-1.

Of those 100 fatalities, 55 were unbelted. Another 113 unbelted motorists were seriously injured during this period.

The State Patrol will also conduct special nighttime seat belt enforcement patrols. DPS 2004-2006 data reports there were 306 vehicle occupant traffic deaths during nighttime hours (9 p.m.-3 a.m.) and 202 -- 66 percent -- were not belted.

Another focus of the campaign is teens -- the group with the lowest rate of seat belt use, and as a result is overrepresented in traffic deaths. During 2004-06 in Minnesota, 176 vehicle occupants ages 16-19 were killed in crashes and 98 were unbelted.