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Minnesota seat belt compliance climbs, southwest region still lags behind

ST. PAUL -- Minnesota's new seat belt compliance rate is 93.6 percent, marking another increase in belt use which has resulted in fewer unbelted deaths, according to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety Office of Traffic Safety. DPS conducted its annual observational belt use survey in June.

DPS officials attribute the continued increase in seat belt use to awareness and enforcement of the state's primary seat belt law, which became effective in June 2009.

In addition to the annual statewide survey, Toward Zero Deaths partners conduct separate, Greater Minnesota regional belt use surveys. Officials stress that the regional surveys are unrelated to the statewide survey and cannot be compared to the statewide results. The statewide survey provides a comprehensive gauge of statewide belt use, while the regional surveys have a smaller sample size and aim to provide an additional snapshot of belt use to measure local progress.

In the southwest Minnesota counties of Big Stone, Chippewa, Kandiyohi, Lac qui Parle, Lincoln, Lyon, McLeod, Meeker, Murray, Pipestone, Redwood, Renville, Swift and Yellow Medicine, surveyors found that 82.5 percent of drivers and passengers were wearing their seat belt. That's up from the 81.1 percent in 2011.

The announcement of the new seat belt use rate comes during a statewide Click It or Ticket seat belt enforcement campaign that runs through Friday.

"The continued increase in belt use reflects a growing culture of safety on our roads that will lead to fewer tragedies," says DPS Commissioner Mona Dohman. "Yet the issue remains serious considering more than 100 people are killed annually who were not buckled up and could be with us today."