Minnesota Department of Transportation

511 Travel Info

News Release

May 22, 2017

Join the crowd and save your life or someone else’s: Buckle up!

Mankato, Minn. —There will be extra patrols and education efforts May 22 - June 4 to help south central Minnesota residents make the right choice and buckle up. The efforts are part of the statewide Click It or Ticket campaign involving deputies, police officers and troopers.

A typical day for Minnesota drivers includes encounters with distracted drivers, farm machinery, road rage, deer and other unplanned situations. The danger is that being a safe, confident driver won’t make a difference if a crash happens and the person isn’t buckled up. With the arrival of Memorial Day weekend and the anticipation of warmer weather, road trips, barbeques and fun at the lake, seat belt safety should be a part of every Minnesotan’s plans.

The south central Minnesota campaign event highlighted how critical seat belts are to saving lives:

  • Mark Griffith, executive director, South Central Minnesota EMS Regional System, shared what happens to the body when not wearing a seat belt.
  • Captain Jeremy Geiger, Minnesota State Patrol, talked about motorists who are not buckled increase their odds of being injured by six-times if they are in a crash.
  • Boy Scout Troop 130 assisted with educational efforts by painting the buckle up message at 17 locations across Blue Earth County including churches, area schools, Wickersham Clinic, Menards and Hy-Vee.

The Good News and Bad News
Fortunately, most Minnesotans are making the life-saving decision to buckle up.

  • According to the 2016 Minnesota Observational Seat Belt Survey, 93 percent of front seat occupants are wearing their seat belts.
  • Severe injuries are going down. In 1987, there were 4,176 vehicle occupants who suffered severe injuries in traffic crashes. That number dropped to 745 in 2015.
  • According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, seat belts saved an estimated 227 people ages 5 and older in Minnesota in 2015.

For those choosing not to buckle up, the results are tragically hurting families across Minnesota.

  • In 2015, 91 unbelted motorists lost their lives on Minnesota roads.
  • In 2015, 87 percent of the unbelted deaths occurred in Greater Minnesota (outside the seven-county Metro area).

Blue Earth County Sheriff’s office Deputy Tom Coulter said, “In 2017, preliminary crash numbers show we have lost 25 unbelted motorists in Minnesota crashes. That is too many lives lost. All of us here today and so many others participate in the extra enforcement to save lives.” 

A “Saved by the Belt” was awarded to Chad Swehla. The snowplow he was driving was rear-ended on Interstate 90 by a semi. Swehla made that smart choice to buckle up.

Speak Up about Buckling Up
An unbelted motorist can crash into a windshield and get thrown into other passengers. Often times, an unbelted occupant is ejected from the vehicle and killed.

Drivers are in charge of their vehicles and of the safety of their passengers. They can refuse to start the car until every passenger is belted. Passengers also can speak up if the driver is endangering everyone in the vehicle by not buckling up.

The Law is for Safety
Minnesota law states that drivers and passengers in all seating positions must be buckled up or seated in the correct child restraint. Officers will 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.

Minnesota Child Car Seat Law and Steps

  • In Minnesota, all children must be in a child restraint until they are 4’9” tall, or at least age 8, whichever comes first.
  • Rear-facing child seats - Newborns to at least 1 year and 20 pounds; recommended up to age 2. It is safest to keep a child rear-facing as long as possible.
  • Forward-facing seats - Age 2 until around age 4. It's preferable to keep children in a harnessed restraint until they reach the maximum weight limit.
  • Booster seats - Use after outgrowing a forward-facing harnessed restraint; safest to remain in a booster until 4 feet 9 inches tall, or at least age 8, whichever comes first.
  • Seat belts - Use 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.

Toward Zero Deaths
The Click It or Ticket seat belt enforcement and education is a component of the state’s Toward Zero Deaths (TZD) program. A primary vision of the TZD program is to create a safe driving culture in Minnesota in which motorists support a goal of zero road fatalities by practicing and promoting safe and smart driving behavior. TZD focuses on the application of four strategic areas to reduce crashes – education, enforcement, engineering and emergency trauma response.

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