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To prevent a repeat of the deadly spring in 2010, when a flurry of traffic crashes killed 11 people within four days (nine were not belted), the Hubbard County Sheriff's Office and Park Rapids Police Department will increase Click It or Ticket seat belt patrols in May 23-June 5.

The campaign includes nearly 400 Minnesota agencies working overtime patrols supported by federal dollars to increase seat belt use and stop preventable traffic deaths. Each year in Minnesota, at least 200 unbelted motorists are killed. During 2007-2009, more than 600 unbelted motorists were killed and more than 1,200 were seriously injured.

According to Hubbard County Chief Deputy, Scott Parks, a seat belt is a motorist's best defense in case of a crash. He notes that in rollover crashes, unbelted motorists are usually ejected from the vehicle. In most cases, the vehicle will roll over them. Often, unbelted motorists will suffer severe injuries from being thrown around the interior of the vehicle, and may collide with and injure or kill others in the vehicle.

"Seat belt enforcement is important to stop preventable deaths or injuries," says Parks. "While we would rather not cite anyone for the violation, we know that a ticket is usually what will convince people to start making the smart decision to always belt up."

Parks adds that motorists need to be the first line of enforcing the law by speaking up and insisting that all passengers are belted.

Hubbard County Sheriff's Office and Park Rapids Police Department officers will enforce the state's primary seat belt law during the effort. The primary law requires passengers in all seating positions, including the back seat, to be buckled up or seated in the correct child restraint. Officers will stop and ticket unbelted drivers or passengers. A seat belt fine is $25 but can cost more than $100 with court and administrative fees.


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Seat Belt Enforcement


The primary law has helped the state achieve a record-high daytime seat belt compliance rate of 92 percent. In a recent pre-enforcement seat belt observational survey in Hubbard County, 73 percent of motorists were belted. Hubbard County will conduct another survey following the enforcement to measure belt use.

The campaign will also include enforcement of Minnesota's strengthened child passenger safety law that requires children to be in the correct restraint until they are age 8 or 4 feet 9 inches tall, whichever comes first. This law requires booster seats for children usually starting at age 4 to ensure adult seat belts fit them correctly.

Belt use is especially an issue in Greater Minnesota communities. Annually, nearly 80 percent of unbelted traffic deaths occur on Greater Minnesota roads.

The Hubbard County Sheriff's Office is stressing belt use belt use especially among teens and young adults, the groups with the lowest seat belt use rates. Statewide each year, motorists age 15-29 account for 45 percent of all unbelted deaths, yet this group represents only 25 percent of licensed drivers. This same age group accounts for 55 percent of all unbelted serious injuries; 70 percent occur in Greater Minnesota.

The enforcement effort will also include a nighttime seat belt enforcement focus. Each year, more than 60 percent of the nighttime fatalities (9 p.m.-3 a.m.) are not buckled up.

"We enforce this law to save lives," says Parks. "Far too often law enforcement and emergency responder resources are pulled away to address motorists' injuries that wouldn't have occurred had seat belts been used."

Every year emergency response entities within Hubbard County spend hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars responding to car accidents.

The Click It or Ticket seat belt enforcement campaign is a component of the state's Toward Zero Death (TZD) 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.