Buckle up ... or else
LAKE CITY — As crews finished clearing the scene of a fatal car crash less than five miles away, southeastern Minnesota law enforcement gathered to kick off the 2014 Click It or Ticket campaign, a component of the Toward Zero Deaths initiative.
The campaign runs May 19 through June 1 and nearly 400 agencies across Minnesota are increasing patrols to encourage motorists to use their seat belts.
“There are people not walking this Earth today because last year they didn’t get the message,” said Scott McConkey, southern Minnesota law enforcement liaison, as he stood in front of peace officers from across the region on the steps of Hearth & Home Technologies.
According to data provided by Southeast Minnesota Toward Zero Deaths, from 2010 to 2012 852 vehicle occupants were killed in Minnesota and only 47 percent were known to be wearing a seat belt.
Wabasha County Sheriff Rodney Bartsh said law enforcement is more committed to the Click It or Ticket campaign than any other time in history, adding the goal is not to make money for departments by increasing the number of tickets written.
McConkey said his colleagues are passionate about keeping people safe, which is one of the reasons this program is so important to them.
“When they stop and write someone a seat belt ticket, it’s one of the most compassionate things they can do,” he said.
According to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, seat belt use increased steadily from 79.4 percent in 2003 to 93.6 percent in 2012. Numbers from a Toward Zero Deaths report in 2012 estimate 86.7 percent of motorists in southeastern Minnesota – which comprises 11 counties – wore seat belts.
Alison Springer told a story of driving on County Road 24 in Wabasha with her 3-year-old son while pregnant when she hit a patch of ice, lost control of her car, spun out and slid off the road into an embankment.
Springer said they were able to walk away from the crash, but the result could have been entirely different without the use of seat belts.
In 2012, 69,236 crashes were reported to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety involving 125,746 vehicles, 168,674 people and causing 29,314 injuries. Of those crashes, 395 were fatal – an increase from 368 in 2011. The total estimated economic loss resulting from 2012 crashes was a little over $1.5 billion, according to MnDPS.
Data from MnDPS showed 1968 to be the deadliest year on Minnesota roads, with 1,060 traffic fatalities. Minnesota had three other years – 1971, 1972 and 1973 – that topped 1,000 fatalities on the road. Since 2000 the highest number of road deaths occurred in 2002 when 657 traffic fatalities were reported.
The statewide Toward Zero Deaths program was started in 2003 by the Minnesota departments of Public Safety, Health and Transportation. The program has set a goal to reduce traffic deaths to fewer than 350, as well as decreasing the number of injuries to below 850, in 2014.