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Officials say seat-belt campaign might have long-term benefits

By Janice Gregorson

gregor@postbulletin.com

Motorists in the Rochester area were given citations during a recent law-enforcement campaign to get more drivers and passengers to use seat belts.

The campaign was part of the May Mobilization, coordinated by the Minnesota Office of Traffic Safety. Nearly 400 law-enforcement agencies throughout the state participated, including the Rochester police and Olmsted County sheriff's departments.

State troopers issued citations to more than 196 unbuckled motorists during the two-week campaign, which ended June 1.

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Patrol Lt. Darryl Peterson of the Rochester office said he is optimistic the campaign will have a long-term impact on the behavior of some motorists.

"We've talked to a lot of motorists about the importance of seat-belt use," he said. "And we know from past campaigns that a certain percentage will probably get the message."

In Olmsted County, deputies stopped 356 vehicles during the campaign and issued 275 warnings and 206 citations. Most were for speeding, with 222 warnings and 103 citations issued. Three motorists were warned about seat-belt use and 62 were given tickets. The remainder of warnings and citations covered a variety of violations, said Sgt. Steve Kazeck, who coordinates the program for the sheriff's department. He said that, prior to the May Mobilization, a survey of motorists showed 78 percent used seat belts. Peterson said that, statewide, seat-belt use was at 80 percent prior to the enforcement campaign.

No information was available today on the number of traffic stops, warnings or tickets issued by Rochester officers during the campaign.

Peterson said the importance of the campaign is underscored by the 657 fatalities that occurred on state roads last year, the highest toll in 20 years. Of those killed, 338 were not wearing seat belts, he said.

"Buckling up to increase your chance of surviving a crash is a pretty simple concept," he said. "But for people who continue to disregard safety and the law, citations are a great communication tool."

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