Minnesota law enforcement goes after the unbelted

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Minnesota law enforcement began cracking down on unbuckled drivers and passengers Oct. 9 as part of Minnesota’s first Click It or Ticket campaign following the passage of a stricter seat belt law .

Since the enactment of the primary seat belt law in June, enforcement agents have been able to pull a vehicle over solely because of a suspected seat belt violation, said Lt. Matt Langer, state patrol spokesman.

The Minnesota Department of Public Safety found 90 percent of motorists were buckled up during a two-week survey in August.

“That’s a 3 percent increase from last year,” Langer said. “The campaign numbers haven’t come in yet, but we’re hopeful that the number of motorists who are wearing seat belts has risen even more [since August].”

October’s Click It or Ticket targets all those riding in vehicles: drivers, passengers and even children. The campaign is Minnesota’s first state-wide effort since the seat belt law was enacted.

“People who are 15 years old or older will be responsible for paying a fine,” Langer said. “But anyone who isn’t wearing a belt will be ticketed.”

Each violation includes a $25 fine and local administrative fees, which drive the cost to more than $100.

“We’re interested in the safety and security of Minnesotans,” Langer said. “That means wearing seat belts whenever someone is in a vehicle.”

The Minnesota Department of Public Safety said it issued 146 seat belt citations in a similar seat belt enforcement effort in May.

“The department wants people to wear their seat belts. That’s the bottom line,” Langer said. “We’re not interested in writing tickets.”

“The campaign has been twofold: it has increased voluntary compliance and has allowed law enforcement to crack down on seat belt violation,” Langer said.

Thirty states, Washington, D.C., and five territories have enacted primary seat belt laws. After more than a decade of legislative pursuits toward an enactment of a state-wide primary seat belt law, Minnesota joined an increasing number of states that deem the law as “necessary.”

Sen. Mee Moua , DFL-St. Paul, said the primary seat belt law and the Click It or Ticket campaign are the result of a long political process.

“We’ve been fighting for years, and each year that passed saw more lawmakers siding with the implementation of a law such as this,” Moua, a member of the Senate Transportation Committee, said. “Even if we save one life, I know that it was necessary to pass the law.

“Our end product is intended to save lives. It is our responsibility to protect public safety.”

Minneapolis police Sgt. Marv Schumer said there have been 85 issued citations for seat belt violations in Minneapolis since Oct. 5.

“In Minneapolis, it’s an important reminder that this campaign is important,” he said. “Wearing a seat belt should be second nature. It takes a few seconds to put on and it can save lives.”

Sen. Kenneth Kelash , DFL-Minneapolis, another member of the Senate Transportation Committee, said he believes the campaign is not intended to be punitive, but rather to serve as a basis for the promotion of safety and health of Minnesotans.

“The campaign and law are there to help Minnesotans,” he said. “That doesn’t mean each campaign or the primary seat belt law will stop vehicles from crashing into each other … the severity of injuries sustained will reduce [because of the primary seat belt law].”