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Buckle up: Increased seat belt patrols take to Lake County roads

Motorists and passengers are reminded to buckle up this fall as extra Click It or Ticket seat belt patrols take to the roads statewide Oct. 4-19. The Two Harbors Police Department, Silver Bay Police Department, and the Lake County Sheriff's Office are among nearly 400 Minnesota agencies increasing patrols to encourage motorists to buckle up.

In the last three years on Minnesota roads (2010-12), there were 852 motorist traffic deaths, of which 361 (42 percent) were not buckled up. Of those 361 killed, 42 percent were motorists ages 16-29, according to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety Office of Traffic Safety.

In Lake County during this time period, four unbelted motorists were killed and two were seriously injured.

"Every year, teens and young adults represent a large percentage of unbelted traffic deaths, which indicates there is still a major issue with seat belt usage among that age group," says Deputy Christian Von Goertz. "For whatever reason--be it comfort, restriction or philosophy--some motorists and passengers still refuse to wear their seat belts. We ask them to remember that their minor inconvenience could turn out to be a major life saver."

Drivers, passengers -- including in the back seat -- must be belted

In Minnesota, drivers and passengers in all seating positions, including in the back seat, are required to 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; shoulder straps should never be tucked under an arm or behind the back.

The importance of buckling up

In rollover crashes, unbelted motorists are usually ejected from the vehicle. In most cases, the vehicle will roll over them. Often, unbelted motorists will crack teeth out on steering wheels or break their nose, and even slam into and injure or kill others in the vehicle.

In a crash, odds are six times greater for injury if a motorist is not buckled up.

Minnesota child car seat law and steps

Minnesota statute requires children under age 8 to ride in a federally approved car seat or booster, unless the child is 4 feet 9 inches or taller. Here are the restraint steps a child should progress through as they age and grow:

Rear-facing infant seats -- Newborns to at least one year and 20 pounds and recommended for children up to age two. It is safest to keep a child rear-facing as long as possible.

Forward-facing toddler seats -- Age two until around age four. It's preferable to keep children in a harnessed restraint as long as possible.

Booster seats -- Use once a child has outgrown a forward-facing harnessed restraint. It's safest for a child to remain in a booster until he or she is four feet, nine inches tall, or at least age eight.

Seat belts -- A child is ready for an adult seat belt when he or she can sit with back against the vehicle seat, knees bent comfortably and completely over the vehicle seat edge without slouching, and feet touching the floor. Children four feet, nine inches tall or taller can correctly fit in a lap/shoulder belt.

Promoting the message

The Two Harbors Police Department, Silver Bay Police Department, and Lake County Sheriff's Office stress the importance of promoting the seat belt enforcement to encourage belt use.

"We want motorists to be the true enforcers of the law and speak up to remind others to belt up," says Officer Greg Moe. "The last thing we care to do is write seat belt tickets."

Toward Zero Deaths

The "Click it or Ticket" seat belt enforcement and education is a component of the state's Toward Zero Deaths initiative. 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.