WILLMAR - Sharon Johnson of Atwater said she "always" wears a seatbelt.

On Friday - as she was going through the Burger King drive-thru on First Street in Willmar - she got a dollar for being buckled up.

So did 116 other motorists in Willmar and New London during a a special education campaign called "Buckle up for a Buck."

Coordinated by the Kandiyohi County Traffic Education and Safety Team, dollar bills and information about the benefits of wearing seat belts were handed out by local law enforcement and emergency medical service staff.

"A majority of people are wearing their seatbelts," said James Kroona, a member of the Willmar Ambulance Service, who was handing out dollar bills and information along with Willmar Police Officer Marco Vazquez.

"We've had about 10 who have not had their seat belts on. They don't get a dollar but they get some information about wearing seatbelts and the importance of wearing their seatbelts," Kroona said of those not buckled.

There's a need for the education push.

According to survey results, the 13 counties in southwest Minnesota have the lowest seat belt compliance in the state, said Stephanie Felt, coordinator for the program.

Most counties have a rate of near 90 percent, she said, but the southwest region, which includes Kandiyohi, Swift, Meeker, Chippewa, Renville, Lac qui Parle, Yellow Medicine, Redwood, McLeod, Lincoln, Lyon, Murray and Pipestone counties, has a rate of about 80 percent.

That low seat belt usage rate is a "huge part of why we're promoting this," said Vasquez. "The response has been very positive. People seem to enjoy hearing the information and statistics."

While handing out dollar bills as a reward for motorists wearing seat belts, Vazquez and Kroona weren't afraid to use some gruesome details when talking to the 10 people they encountered that weren't wearing their seat belts.

"One of the things we tell people is that a 60-mile-per-hour crash without wearing your seatbelt is the equivalent of falling out of a 12-story building," Kroona said. "So, most people look at that and they reconsider their idea of not wearing their seat belt."

Felt said properly wearing seat belts reduces the risk of fatal injury by 45 percent in a car and 60 percent in a light truck.

During the one-day campaign Friday, three teams of people handed out the dollar bills and educational information.

They spent time during the noon-hour lunch rush at Arby's, Burger King, Culvers, Hardee's and Taco Bell in Willmar and A&W in New London.

In total they talked with 126 drivers and gave away $116, Felt said. There were 10 drivers not belted.