Study: Minn. Seat Belt Law Is Saving Lives

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A Minnesota law is being credited with saving lives behind the wheel.

Nearly three years ago, the primary seat belt law went into effect giving law enforcement the ability to ticket drivers without another moving violation. That law combined with advances in vehicle safety has led a trend of fewer fatal crashes since 2002.

“Every week there are traffic crashes where belted motorists walk away with little or no injury,” said Mona Dohman, commissioner of Minnesota’s Department of Public Safety.

A study conducted by the University of Minnesota’s Center for Excellence in Rural Safety shows the primary seat belt law has resulted in 68 fewer deaths and 320 fewer severe injuries from 2009-2011. It’s also resulted in 93 percent of Minnesotans wearing their seat belts – a growth of six percent from 2009.

Larry Casey, of Prior Lake, is in the midst of planning his summer getaway.

“We’ll be touring part of wine country and the national parks in northern California,” Casey said.

The trip will mean many miles of travel on the open road. Like many drivers, Casey relies on technology for added security behind the wheel.

“We’ve got airbags all the way around,” Casey said.

From vehicles with rear view cameras to those that stop automatically, new electronics bring extra protection to motorists. However, most drivers won’t be able to benefit from that technology, because it won’t be in the majority of vehicles for many years, according to Gail Weinholzer, of AAA.

The highest percentage of traffic deaths comes from young drivers, mainly male. Motorists ages 15-29 make up 24 percent of all drivers, but account for 40 percent of unbelted deaths.

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