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State seat belt use reaches new record level

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Minnesota’s new seat belt compliance rate is 93.6 percent, marking another increase in belt use which has resulted in fewer unbelted deaths, according to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety (DPS) Office of Traffic Safety. DPS conducted its annual observational belt use survey in June.

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DPS officials attribute the continued increase in seat belt use to awareness and enforcement of the state’s primary seat belt law, which became effective in June 2009.

The announcement of the new seat belt use rate comes during a statewide Click It or Ticket seat belt enforcement campaign that runs through Oct. 26.

As seat belt use has increased, the state reports unbelted deaths dropped:

■ 1986 — (the year Minnesota first passed a seat belt law) seat belt compliance was 20 percent; 280 unbelted deaths.

■ 2003 — seat belt compliance was 79.4 percent; 257 unbelted deaths.

■ 2008 — seat belt use was 86.7 percent; 150 unbelted deaths.

■ 2011 — Belt use was 92.7 percent; 120 unbelted deaths. Seat Belt Survey Results

■ Data were collected at 240 sites in 43 counties (based on where 85 percent of the state’s road deaths occurred on average, 2007–2009). 16,924 front seat occupants were observed.

■ Belt use rate by vehicle type: sports utility vehicle — 95.9 percent; car — 93.9 percent; van — 93 percent; pickup — 87.2 percent. Pickup occupant seat belt use is historically low, but has improved (up from 76 percent five years ago).

■ Belt use rate by gender: females — 95.6 percent; males — 91.9 percent. This gap continues to close; 10 years ago, the gender gap was around 8 percent.

■ Belt use rate by age: 0–10 — 97.4 percent; 11–15 — 84 percent; 16–29 — 93.3 percent; 30–64 — 94.1 percent; 65 and older — 91.9 percent. While a great majority of children were observed riding in car seats, officials note that car seat clinics report three in four car seats are used incorrectly. Belt use is low among 11-15 year olds: During the past five years, 31 were killed, only nine were belted.

In addition to the annual statewide belt survey, Toward Zero Deaths partners conduct separate, greater Minnesota regional belt use surveys to measure belt use progress at a local level.

The statewide survey provides a comprehensive gauge of statewide belt use, while the regional surveys have a smaller sample size and aim to provide an additional snapshot of belt use to measure local progress.

East Central Minnesota:

■ 85.1 percent (first time regional belt use survey)

Counties observed — Benton, Cass, Crow Wing, Isanti, Kanabec, Mille Lacs, Morrison, Sherburne, Stearns, Todd, Wadena, Wright.

Northeast Minnesota:

■ 80.5 percent, slightly up from 80.3 percent in 2011.

Counties observed (April 2012) — Aitkin, Carlton, Cook, Itasca, Koochiching, Lake, Pine, St. Louis.

Northwest Minnesota:

■ 73.9 percent, up from 65.8 percent in 2011.

Counties observed (June 2012) —Beltrami, Clearwater, Hubbard, Kittson, Lake of the Woods, Marshall, Norman, Pennington, Polk, Red Lake, and Roseau.

Southeast Minnesota:

■ 86.7 percent, up from 84.7 percent in 2011.

Counties observed — Dodge, Fillmore, Freeborn, Goodhue, Houston, Mower, Olmsted, Rice, Steele, Wabasha, Winona.

South central Minnesota

■ 84.7 percent, up from 73.2 percent in 2011.

Counties observed — Blue Earth, Brown, Cottonwood, Faribault, Jackson, Le Sueur, Martin, Nicollet, Nobles, Rock, Sibley, Waseca and Watonwan.

Southwest Minnesota

■ 82.5 percent, up from 81.1 percent in 2011.

Counties: Big Stone, Chippewa, Kandiyohi, Lac qui Parle, Lincoln, Lyon, McLeod, Meeker, Murray, Pipestone, Redwood, Renville, Swift and Yellow Medicine.

West Central Minnesota:

■ 78.8 percent (first-time regional belt use survey)

Counties observed — Becker, Clay, Douglas, Grant, Mahnomen, Otter Tail, Pope, Stevens, Traverse, Wilkin.

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Denton (Denny) Newman Jr.
I've worked at the Brainerd Dispatch with various duties since Dec. 7, 1983. Starting off as an Ad Designer and currently Director of Audience Development. The Dispatch has been an interesting and challenging place to work. I'm fortunate to have made many friends, both co-workers and customers.
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