MN State Patrol Trooper Kelley McGraw inspects vehicles for seat belt compliance at Main and Sarnia streets on Apr. 4, 2012. Winona County was targeted for a compliance effort due to recent higher injury and death rates. (Photo by Dave Ferber/ Winona360)
Hiding in plain sight at the corner of Sarnia and Main, Minnesota State Patrol Trooper Kelley McGraw spends a few hours in Winona on a sunny Wednesday, enjoying the warm spring weather as he issues seat belt violation citations.
“There’s a big push going on right now, so we have to be out here,” said McGraw.
The stepped-up enforcement is part of a continuing Minnesota Department of Public Safety (DPS) campaign to raise awareness of seat belt use and laws. A March, 2012 University of Minnesota study reported that Minnesota’s primary seat belt law, enacted in 2009, resulted in dozens of fewer deaths and hundreds of fewer severe injuries from 2009 to 2011.
“The primary seat belt law has advanced traffic safety in Minnesota by saving lives and preventing serious injuries,” according to DPS Commissioner Mona Dohman.
In the span of only a few minutes, Trooper McGraw spots several infractions and indicates to each driver stopped on Minnesota Highway 43 at an intersection near Winona State University. Each unbelted driver and passenger receives a reminder to buckle up in the form of a citation costing over $100 per offense.
“I do (accident) reconstruction most of the time, and I can tell you that in a couple hundred fatality crashes I’ve been to, 99 percent of them, if they wore a seat belt, would be alive.”
The U of M study confirms McGraw’s assumption that seat belts save lives, and further describes the increase in compliance in Minnesota as a cost savings in private and government healthcare in the millions of dollars.
The Minnesota State Patrol will step up seat belt compliance checking in Olmsted and Winona counties, where the state has experienced a higher number of injury and death attributed to non-use of seat belts, through Apr. 8.
For more information go to dps.mn.gov/divisions/ooc/news-releases/Pages/Minnesotas-Primary-Seat-Belt-Law-Saves-Lives-Money.aspx