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Safe & Sober Click It or Ticket campaign begins

WORTHINGTON -- From 2006 to 2008, 49 percent of the people killed in car crashes in Minnesota were not wearing a seat belt, according to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety (DPS) Office of Traffic Safety (OTS). Of the 3,665 vehicle occupants seriously injured, more than a thousand of them were not belted.

More than 60 percent of motorists killed during nighttime hours were known to be unbelted.

On Friday, the Safe & Sober Click It or Ticket seat belt enforcement begins. Between Oct. 9 and Oct. 22, law enforcement officers from the Nobles, Jackson, Cottonwood and Lyon County Sheriff's Offices and the Worthington and Jackson Police Departments will put in an additional 196 hours patrolling the streets in an effort to convince those who don't wear their seat belt to make it a habit.

The best way to convince them? Ticket them.

"With court fees, a ticket for not wearing a seat belt can cost $107," said Worthington Police Officer Darin Vossen, Safe & Sober officer.

The October enforcement will be the first of the new grant year. Vossen said the local Safe & Sober chapter received $38,000 in grant funds, $7,800 of which will be used to cover the seat belt campaign.

"Our goal is to bring seat belt usage up to 85 percent," Vossen said. "As of May, after that survey, Worthington was at 63 percent."

That wave took place before the seat belt law became a primary law, which allows law enforcement to pull people over for not being belted.

"Since the law went into effect, I believe the number of people wearing their seat belts have increased," Vossen said. "I've noticed an increase personally."

According to the OTS, a study by the American Academy of Pediatrics shows a correlation between driver seat belt use and child restraint use. When a driver buckles up, the study states, child passengers are restrained nearly 90 percent of the time. In cases where the driver does not wear a seat belt, children are restrained only one-quarter of the time.

Another change in law requires children to be in booster seats until they are 8 years old or have reached a height of 4 feet 9 inches tall. Kids less than 4 years old need to be in a restraint with a five-point harness.

In conjunction with the Worthington Police Department, the Helping Hand Pregnancy Center will be giving away booster seats during the next child seat clinic, which will be 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Friday, Oct. 16, at the Worthington Fire Hall.

"We're encouraging low income and WIC families who are in need of a booster seat for the 4- to 8-year-old age range to come by or call," Vossen said.

The booster seats were obtained through a grant, Vossen said.

Those who would like to take part in the clinic to ensure their child's car seat is installed correctly are encouraged to make an appointment by calling 372-2136. Appointments are preferred, Vossen said, but drop-ins will be welcome.