What's In It for Minnesota?
Contact the Minnesota Seat Belt Coalition by calling 651-228-7304 or 1-800-444-9150 x 304 or by e-mail at
- The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that upgrading Minnesota's current
seat belt law to universal standard (primary) enforcement could save 51 lives, prevent 1,000 injuries
and save at least $128 million each year. Universal standard enforcement means everybody in every seat
in a vehicle is required to wear their seat belts every time they're in the vehicle, and law enforcement officers are allowed to enforce the seat belt law just as they do any other traffic law.
- Since 1986, Minnesota has had a mandatory seat belt law. Minn. Stat. 169.686 requires that a fastened seat belt be worn by: 1) the driver; 2) a passenger riding in the front seat; and 3) a passenger riding in any seat of a passenger vehicle who is older than three but younger than eleven years of age. Nowhere does the law say that wearing a seat belt is optional.
- "Primary" doesn't mean "special". It means "standard" law enforcement. Upgrading the current belt law would not involve increasing enforcement, but rather maintaining the current level of enforcement activity while working closely with media to inform the public of the upgrade.
- Currently, only 80% of Minnesotans comply with our mandatary seat belt law. Focus groups have proven that those people who do not comply will only buckle up if there is a chance they will be stopped. Not surprisingly, those who tend not to buckle up are the ones dying at the highest rate - namely, male drivers from 15-44 years of age. In 2001, only 24% of males killed in crashes were reported to be wearing their seat belts.
- Experience has shown that upgrading to a primary enforcement seat belt law results in up to a 15% increase in seat belt use statewide. At 80%, Minnesota currently has the average seat belt use rate for states with primary belt laws. BUT - we could see the same results in Minnesota as in Washington state when seat belt use jumped from 81% to 92% last year after adopting a primary belt law.
- Some have expressed concern that a primary enforcement seat belt law will open the door for racial profiling. But several studies have shown that is not the case. Click here for a summary of those studies. For instance, Michigan implemented a primary seat belt law in 2000. A survey was commissioned to measure results. In September, 2001, results of the study were released. Findings among African American drivers who self-reported: 1. A 48% reduction in the number of seat belt citations received; 2. A16% drop in the number of traffic stops; and 3. a significant increase in seat belt use among African Americans - from 54% to 71%. Furthermore, the study reported a 61% to 34% majority of African American respondents said they approved of the standard enforcement change in the seat belt law and 76% said the new primary enforcement law should be kept. The study concluded, "Apparently even those who feel they would be most negatively impacted by the law support it.
- The Blue Ribbon Panel to Increase Seat Belt Use Among African Americans (October 2000) reports that while organizations expressed concern about "driving while black" and racial profiling abuses, support is growing for passage of primary seat belt laws. Several prominent national organizations of color support primary seat belt legislation, including the National Black Caucus of State Legislators, National Organization of Black Law Enforcement, National Urban League, Blacks in Government, National Conference of Black Mayors, Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, the National Education Fund and Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority.
- Properly wearing a seat belt reduces the risk of fatal injury to front seat passengers by 60% in a light truck and 45% in a car. Nationally, rollovers affect about 3% of passenger vehicles involved in crashes but account for 32% of passenger vehicle occupant fatalities. In rollovers, seat belts are 80% effective in preventing death in light trucks and 74% effective in cars. Yet 72% of the occupants of these vehicles who die in rollover crashes are not wearing seat belts.
- Crash victims who are not wearing their seat belts have medical bills that are 50% higher than those victims who do. Society bears 74% of those costs through increased insurance premiums and taxes. When people are severely injured because they are not buckled up, taxpayers often pick up the bill for Medicare/Medicaid payments and other programs to support them and their families.
- The Minnesota Department of Health has identified motor vehicle-related crashes as the leading cause of death from unintentional injury in our state. In Minnesota, traffic crashes are the leading cause of death for people 4 to 34 years of age (Minnesota Department of Public Safety statistics). They are also the leading cause of workplace death.
- The American Academy of Pediatrics published a study that showed a direct correlation between driver seat belt use and child restraint use. When a driver buckles up, child passengers are restrained 87% of the time. However, when a driver chooses not to buckle up, children are restrained only 24% of the time.
- Traffic crashes kill more children then all childhood diseases combined. (National SAFE KIDS Coalition)
- Between 1993 and 1997, the Minnesota Department of Health reported that 20% of fatal traumatic brain injuries, 32% of hospitalized traumatic brain injuries, 38% of fatal spinal cord injuries and 37% of hospitalized spinal cord injuries in Minnesota were due to motor vehicle crashes.
- A 2002 study completed by MCP/Hahnemann University Hospital in Philadelphia examined 152 cases involving both front and rear seat riders where 79% of rear-seat passengers and 63% of front-seat drivers or passengers were not wearing seat belts at the time of the crash. Surprisingly, the study found that unrestrained rear passengers were the most likely to sustain brain injuries - 65% did, compared with 61% of unrestrained front-seat riders, 43% of rear restrained riders and 43% of front seat restrained riders.