Itasca, IL – After years of advocacy by key legislators and the Minnesota Seat Belt Coalition, Minnesota today becomes the nation’s 29th state with a primary seat belt law. Governor Tim Pawlenty signed the Kathryn Swanson Seat Belt Safety Act, enabling police to ticket drivers solely for failure to wear seat belts. The act, which becomes law today, is named in honor of the former director of the Minnesota highway safety office, a primary seat belt law advocate who died in 2008.
The National Safety Council praises Governor Pawlenty and other legislators who have supported a primary seat belt law, including Sen. Steve Murphy, DFL-Red Wing, chair of the Transportation Committee, and Rep. Kim Norton, DFL-Rochester. The NSC also thanks the Minnesota Seat Belt Coalition, which includes the Minnesota Safety Council and other organizations and individuals from across the state.
“Wearing a seat belt is the single most effective way to prevent injuries and fatalities on the road. By adopting a primary seat belt law, Minnesota is poised to save hundreds of lives,” said Janet Froetscher, National Safety Council President & CEO. “New research by the U.S Department of Transportation estimates that in 2007 seat belts saved a stunning 15,147 lives.”
Minnesota’s new law requires that all passengers in a car wear a seat belt and face a $25 fine if anyone older than 15 violates the law. The law also makes drivers liable for their own violations, as well as the violations of any passengers younger than 15.
The Minnesota Department of Public Safety estimates the new law will save up to 30 additional lives and prevent nearly 400 injuries annually. The department further estimates it will result in a savings of $11 million in hospital charges the first year after passage.
The National Safety Council (www.nsc.org) saves lives by preventing injuries and deaths at work, in homes and communities, and on the roads, through leadership, research, education and advocacy.