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New seat belt law is long due

A new law will become effective June 9 requiring everyone, any age, in every seating position to be buckled up or riding in an approved child safety restraint.

It's about time.

The state law will make it a primary offense, allowing law enforcement officers to stop and cite drivers and passengers not wearing a seat belt. Before the new law, law enforcement officers couldn't pull over someone for only being unbuckled. The officer had to see another offense, such as speeding.

Wearing a seat belt can save lives and help prevent injuries.

According to the Minnesota Safety Council, seat belts are the simplest and most effective way to prevent death or injury in a crash - especially on Minnesota roads plagued with speeding, distracted and impaired drivers.

The safety council lists these facts about Minnesota traffic crashes:

-Traffic crashes are the leading cause of death for Minnesotans ages 1 to 34.

-Around 700,000 Minnesotans don't buckle up. This group accounts for the 200 unbelted traffic deaths that occur on Minnesota roads each year - representing 55 percent of all traffic deaths. Another 430 unbelted crash victims suffer serious, life-altering injuries annually.

-Annually, nearly 80 percent of unbelted traffic deaths occur on Greater Minnesota roads.

-Minnesotans that are least likely to buckle up and more likely to die in crashes are young drivers, particularly males and residents in Greater Minnesota. Each year, motorists ages 15-29 account for 45 percent of all unbelted deaths and 55 percent of all unbelted serious injuries - yet this group represents only 25 percent of all licensed drivers.

-Many unbelted traffic deaths occur at night - more than 60 percent of nighttime crash victims are not buckled up.

-Each year, 80 percent of drinking drivers killed in crashes are not buckled up.

-During 2005-2007, the economic impact of unbelted traffic deaths and injuries to Minnesota was $1.1 billion. This translates to over $500 per household. Of all Minnesota traffic crashes, 74 percent of all associated costs are paid by citizens not involved in the crashes.

Some people might grumble about having to wear a seat belt but we think the potential consequences of not wearing a seat belt are far more severe than the minor inconvenience of buckling up.

So, please buckle up each and every time you get into a vehicle.