Survey shows region's drivers buckle up
Drivers in southeastern Minnesota are more likely to buckle up than other non-Twin Cities regions in the state, according to the results of a survey just released by Minnesota Toward Zero Deaths.
Southeastern Minnesota's seat belt law compliance rate this year is 86.7 percent, which is up 2 percent over last year's, according to the survey. East Central Minnesota, including the counties of Benton, Cass, Crow Wing, Isanti, Kanabec, Mille Lacs and Sherburne, has the next highest compliance rate, at 85.1 percent.
"Seatbelt use is historically lower in rural areas compared to the Twin Cities, and therefore, rural areas see more unbelted deaths," says Kristine Hernandez, southeastern Minnesota Toward Zero Deaths coordinator.
But MnDOT has seen significant changes in belt use in southeastern Minnesota since 2006, when the first survey found just 69.4 percent usage.
Minnesota Toward Zero Deaths is an initiative led by the state's departments of transportation, health and public safety. It surveys seven regions in the state: East Central, Northeast, Northwest, Southeast, South Central, Southwest and West Central.
In addition to the TZD results, the Department of Public Safety and the Minnesota State Patrol recently reported a record high, statewide, seat belt compliance rate of 93.6 percent found during their Click It or Ticket seat belt enforcement effort. Those results were found by observing 16,924 front seat occupants at 240 sites in 43 Minnesota counties, according to the public safety department.
As Minnesota's compliance rate has increased, deaths in conjunction with unbelted drivers have declined, according to the public safety department.
For example, in 1986, the first year of the state's seat belt law, the compliance rate was 20 percent and there were 280 unbelted deaths in traffic accidents. In 2008, the compliance rate was 86.7 percent and there were 150 unbelted deaths. Last year, the compliance rate was 92.6 percent and there were 120 unbelted deaths, according to the public safety department.