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Number of Unbelted Motorists Killed in Crashes Goes Up for 2nd Year

May 23, 2022 09:50AM ● By Content Editor

Photo: Boreal Files

From MN Dept of Public Safety - May 19, 2022

Buckling up. It’s a two-second step that helps parents come home to their kids, teenagers graduate and pursue their dreams, and families avoid the heartache of losing a loved one in a crash. Too many Minnesotans skipped that step the last two years, and the consequences are permanent and tragic. The number of people killed by not wearing a seat belt rose in 2021 for the second year in a row.

The Click It or Ticket statewide seat belt campaign May 23- June 5 strives to stop the preventable loss to families across Minnesota. Troopers, deputies and officers participate in the campaign, which includes extra patrols, to keep Minnesotans alive or avoid life-changing injuries. The Minnesota Department of Public Safety Office of Traffic Safety coordinates the enforcement, education and awareness campaign with funding provided by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. It includes advertising across Minnesota​ in support of the Toward Zero Deaths traffic safety initiative.

“When a life is lost because of no seat belt, it’s very discouraging because it so easily could’ve been prevented,” said Mike Hanson, Office of Traffic Safety director. “That’s it. It’s over for that person and for loved ones and friends left behind. When you’re heading out, please make the wise, caring choice to wear your seat belt and refuse to put the vehicle in drive until passengers buckle up as well. Drive smart and live.”

Two Years of Growing Tragedy
Preliminary counts from the Office of Traffic Safety show 108 unbelted motorists died on Minnesota roads in 2021, up three from 2020 when 105 died. This is 48 percent higher than the 73 unbelted deaths in 2019 and the highest number since 2014.

Last year saw the highest number of unbelted fatalities (38) of 25-39-year-olds since 2012 (36). 2020 was not far behind, with 31 unbelted deaths in that age category. Seventy-seven percent of unbelted fatalities in 2021 occurred in greater Minnesota, outside the seven-county metro area.

Through May 15, unbelted fatalities (27) are:

  • 27 percent lower than at this time last year (37).
  • One more than in 2020 (26).
  • 35 percent higher than in 2019 (20).

Car Seat Decisions Affect Young Lives
Children rely on adults for proper car seat use.

  • In Minnesota crashes from 2017 – 2021, of the 14,692 children ages 0-7 who were properly restrained, 88 percent were not injured, while another 9 percent sustained only minor injuries.
  • Twenty-one children ages 0-7 were killed in motor vehicles from 2017-2021, and of those, only 38 percent were known to be properly secured.
  • Of the 88 children (ages 0-7) seriously injured in motor vehicles, only 49 percent were known to be properly secured.

Minnesota Car Seat Law and Steps
In Minnesota, all children must be in a child safety seat until they are 4' 9" tall, or at least age 8, whichever comes first.

  • Rear-facing seats - All infants and toddlers should ride in a rear-facing car seat until they have reached the height and weight limits allowed by the car seat manufacturer. It is safest to keep children rear-facing up to the maximum weight limit of the car seat.
  • Forward-facing seats with harness – Toddlers and preschool-age children who have reached the height and weight limits of the rear-facing car seat should use a forward-facing seat with harness until they reach the weight limit of the harness allowed by the car seat manufacturer.
  • Booster seats - School-age children who have reached the height and weight limits of the forward-facing seat can sit on a booster seat. The booster must be used with a lap and shoulder belt.
  • Seat belts - Buckling up with a seat belt is for children 8 years old or who have reached 4 feet 9 inches. Your children are ready for adult seat belts when they can sit with their back against the vehicle seat, knees bent comfortably and completely over the vehicle seat edge without slouching, and feet touching the floor.

The Law is for Safety
Minnesota law states that drivers and passengers in all seating positions must wear seat belts or be in the correct child restraint. Belts should be tight across the hips or thighs and should never be tucked under the arm or behind the back.


About the Minnesota Department Public Safety​​
DPS comprises 11 divisions where 2,100 employees operate programs in the areas of law enforcement, crime victim assistance, traffic safety, alcohol and gambling, emergency communications, fire safety, pipeline safety, driver licensing, vehicle registration and emergency management. DPS activity is anchored by three core principles: education, enforcement and prevention.

​​​About the Office of Traffic Safety
The Minnesota Department of Public Safety Office of Traffic Safety (DPS-OTS) designs, implements and coordinates federally funded traffic safety enforcement and education programs to improve driver behaviors and reduce the deaths and serious injuries that occur on Minnesota roads. These efforts form a strong foundation for the statewide Toward Zero Deaths traffic safety program. DPS-OTS also administers state funds for the motorcycle safety program and for the child seats for needy families program.

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