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White Earth council passes seat-belt law

The White Earth Tribal Council recently approved a primary seat-belt law that allows police to stop and cite White Earth residents who aren't wearing seat belts.

The White Earth Indian Reservation overlaps parts of Becker, Clearwater and Mahnomen counties. Between 2004 and 2006 in these counties, 11 of the 21 vehicle occupants killed in traffic crashes were not wearing seat belts.

Another 80 occupants, one-third of whom were not belted, suffered serious, life-changing injuries in crashes.

Seat-belt use on the reservation is 61 percent, according to the White Earth Police Department, far below the state's compliance rate of 85.5 percent.

"Our community experiences far too many injuries that are preventable with seat belt use," police officer Jerry Cossette said in a statement. "This law will save lives and prevent injuries."

The law does not apply to nonresidents of the White Earth Indian Reservation.

The state of Minnesota has a secondary seat-belt law that requires law enforcement to first stop drivers for another moving violation before citing them for not wearing their seat belt.