Seat belt enforcement continues in county

Washington County law enforcement agencies including the Stillwater Police, Oak Park Heights Police, Bayport Police, Forest lake Police, Woodbury Police, St Paul Park Police, Cottage Grove Police, Washington County Sheriffs Office and Minnesota State Patrol will continue stressing seat belt use as Minnesota motorists drive into the deadly summer driving season.

The continued seat belt enforcement comes after agencies ended an enhanced enforcement effort from late May until Sunday.

More than 500 motorists were killed during the period June through September of 2008 through 2010; 40 percent of the state’s total in the last three years.

"Believe us, the last thing we want to do is write seat belt tickets," said Bayport Police Officer Zach Lund. "That’s why we are reminding motorists to buckle up. We want you to avoid meeting us, and more importantly, avoid getting hurt or killed."

Lund adds that motorists are the first line of enforcing the law by speaking up and insisting that all passengers are belted.

"It may not be cool or easy to nag everyone to buckle up, but it’s a lot easier than dealing with the consequences," he said.

In a crash, odds are six-times greater for injury if a motorist is not buckled up.

During the May 21 through Sunday "Click It or Ticket" belt enforcement, more than 480 motorists were ticketed for not buckling up. The effort was conducted on a statewide and nationwide level to increase belt compliance to limit preventable deaths and injuries.

More than 400 unbelted motorists were killed in the last three years in Minnesota, representing 43 percent of the total motorist deaths. In Washington County during the last three years, 8 unbelted motorists were killed and 19 were seriously injured.

Washington County law enforcement agencies enforced the state’s primary seat belt law during the campaign – which is saving lives, according to a University of Minnesota study released in March. The study reported the law has resulted in 68 fewer deaths, 320 fewer injuries and $45 million in avoided hospital charges since enacted three years ago (June 2009).

Law Enforcement agencies across the county have worked with the local youth service bureaus, schools and other local agencies to raise the awareness of seatbelt use, especially among teens and young adults. Woodbury Police Sergeant, Curt Zacharias, said that the Woodbury Police Department hosted a "mock crash" at the Woodbury High School just prior to the prom.

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. Seat belts must be worn correctly – low and snug across the hips; shoulder straps should never be tucked under an arm or behind the back.

Agencies also cited 10 parents and caregivers for child seat violations during the seat belt enforcement. Minnesota’s child passenger safety law requires children under age 8 or 4 feet 9 inches to be in a car seat or booster seat.

Boosters are for children after they have outgrown a forward-facing harnessed restraint (typically age 4 or 40-60 pounds, depending on seat’s weight limitations). Children should remain in a booster until they are age 8 or 4 feet 9 inches tall – whichever comes first. DPS recommends keeping children in boosters based on their size rather than age. Boosters help adult seat belts fit children correctly.