ST. PAUL, Minn. - The message finally appears to be getting through.
The annual observational seatbelt survey by the Minnesota Department of Public Safety (DPS) Office of Traffic Safety suggests drivers and passengers are belting up at a rate of 94.8 percent, a state record. It marks an increase in belt use of more than 15 percent since 2003, and a 1.2 percent jump from 2012.
DPS officials credit raised awareness and enforcement of the state's primary seat belt law, which became effective in June 2009, as the reasons for increased use of seat belts in Minnesota.
Despite the increase in belt use, safety officials say there is still room for improvement.
"Seat belts save lives, and the increase in belt use is a positive sign that more and more people realize that," says Donna Berger, OTS director. "However, more than 100 unbelted motorists and passengers are killed every year on Minnesota roads. We ask everyone to do their part to reduce these preventable tragedies by buckling up, every ride, every time."
The DPS says statistics prove that as seat belt use has increased, unbelted deaths have dropped.
- In 1986 (the year Minnesota first passed a seat belt law): Belt compliance was 20 percent; There were 280 unbelted deaths
- 2003: Belt compliance was 79.4 percent; 257 unbelted deaths
- 2008: Belt use was 86.7 percent; 150 unbelted deaths.
- 2012: Belt use was 93.6 percent; 116 unbelted deaths.
Data for the survey was collected at 240 sites in 43 counties based on where 85 percent of the state's road deaths occurred on average from 2007-2009. 16,436 front seat occupants were observed.
Belt use rate was also charted by:
- Van - 97.3 percent belted
- SUV - 96.7 percent
- Car - 95.8 percent
- Pickup - 86.8 percent. Pickup occupant belt use is historically low, but has improved (up from 76 percent in 2008).
- Females - 97.5 percent belted
- Males - 92.6 percent. Both rates are up from last year
- From 0 to age 10 - 99.4 percent
- Ages 11-15 - 99.2 percent
- Ages 16-29 - 92.8 percent
- Ages 30-64 - 95.4 percent
- Ages 65 and older - 93.7 percent.
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