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Tue, Jun 9th, 2009
Posted in State of Minnesota

ST. PAUL - Minnesota's primary seat belt law goes into effect today, June 9, meaning drivers and passengers in all seating positions - including the back seat - must be buckled up or in the correct child restraint. Law enforcement can now stop motorists solely for seat belt violations, including unbelted passengers. Minnesota is the 29th state to pass a primary seat belt law following the recent passage by Arkansas and Florida legislatures.

Each year in Minnesota, around 200 unbelted motorists are killed and another 400 unbelted motorists suffer life-altering injuries, according to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety (DPS). Officials say a primary law will increase the state's belt use compliance and as a result prevent traffic deaths and injuries.

The June 9th enactment date of the primary seat belt law is in memory of Meghan Cooper, a 15-year-old girl from Southeastern Minnesota who died in a traffic accident on June 9, 1999. Meghan was unbuckled and ejected from the rear seat of the car she was riding in as it flipped. Meghan's mother, Kathy, has been urging legislators to strengthen Minnesota's seat belt law for 10 years.

Michael Campion, DPS commissioner, says that while a majority of Minnesotans use their seat belts (87 percent), those that don't - approximately 700,000 motorists - account for half of all motorist traffic deaths annually.

"Minnesota's new primary seat belt law will provide significant results in reducing traffic tragedies," says Campion. "The focus of this law is not on issuing citations, but rather on increasing seat belt compliance and ensuring Minnesotans are traveling as safely as possible to limit preventable deaths and injuries."

DPS says the lives saved and injuries prevented will also reduce state heath care costs. Unbelted motorists injured in crashes have hospital charges 60 percent greater than those who are belted. During 2004 -2005, all government payer sources, including Medicaid, were charged $83 million for unbelted motorists' hospital charges. Unbelted motorist injury charges were 78 percent greater for Medicaid than belted motorists.

These costs do not include the far-greater, long-term medical charges commonly associated with unbelted motorist injuries. These include follow-up doctor and specialist care, injury rehabilitation and extended nursing or assisted-living care.

Officials say the primary law is especially relevant in Greater Minnesota. Each .....
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