May 20, 2019 10:38 PM
(ABC 6 News) -- Drivers heading out for a long Memorial Day weekend are being reminded to buckle up -- or it could cost them.
More than 300 law enforcement agencies across Minnesota are participating in an extra seatbelt enforcement period through June 2, as the tenth anniversary of the state's primary seatbelt law approaches.
At a news conference in Owatonna Monday, the state's department of public safety said the law has helped them significantly reduce traffic deaths due to unbelted passengers, but Office of Traffic Safety Director Mike Hanson said the state still has a long way to go.
"In the five years preceding the enactment of the primary seatbelt law, 51 percent of all fatalities were the direct result of an unbelted driver or passenger," Hanson said. "In the last five years, we have cut that rate to 34 percent."
Seatbelt advocate Kathy Cooper helped pressure lawmakers to enact the primary seatbelt law, which took effect on June 9, 2009. A decade prior, Cooper's daughter Meghan was killed in a Rice County crash when she was ejected from the vehicle she was riding in. At Monday's press conference, Cooper thanked her daughter for helping prevent other parents from going through what she has.
"Thank you, Meghan, for giving your life to save so many. Buckle up, Minnesota! Buckle up for Meghan," Cooper said.
DPS said 92 percent of front seat occupants in 2018 reported wearing their seatbelts, but their goal is full compliance.
"You might be the best driver on the road, but you can never expect the unexpected. Your best defense, if an error occurs on the part of another driver, is that seatbelt. In some cases, it's your only defense," Hanson said.
As the busy Memorial Day travel season inches closer, Hanson said it's going to take a team effort to prevent drivers and passengers from paying the costs of not wearing their seatbelts, whether it's a ticket or their life.
"It's going to take all Minnesotans working together, speaking up and encouraging everybody to wear that seatbelt, every trip, every seat, every time," he said.
Created: May 20, 2019 10:38 PM
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