Area motorists’ seat belt use at 85 percent

Eighty-five percent of east central Minnesota motorists are buckled up, according to a new seat belt use survey.

The observational survey was conducted in August and data were collected in 12 counties, including Sherburne, Wright, Isanti and Mille Lacs.

“It is so important that we continue to educate area motorists about the importance of buckling up to stop these preventable traffic deaths,” said Capt. Al Kutz of the Minnesota State Patrol.

Seat belt use by region in Minnesota ranges from a low of 74 percent in the northwest to a high of 87 percent in the southeast.

The regional seat belt surveys are a component of the state’s Toward Zero Deaths traffic safety program.

Minnesota passed its first seat belt law in 1986, when seat belt compliance was 20 percent. There were 280 unbelted deaths that year, compared to 120 in 2011, according to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety.