FAIRMONT - Once again, remember to click it or ticket. And consider this article your only warning.
The Fairmont Police Department and Martin County Sheriff's Office will begin their spring "Click It or Ticket" seat belt enforcement campaign Monday. It runs through June 3. Extra patrol will be out watching to see if drivers and passengers are obeying the primary seat belt law.
"Our preliminary survey showed we have about an 87 percent compliance rate [in Fairmont], with a 94 percent compliance rate countywide," said Fairmont police officer Craig Fowler. "We're doing really well. Every year, the compliance goes higher, even when we're not doing a special focus on the seat belts."
Along with belted drivers and passengers, seat belt enforcement deals with child passenger safety. Children are required to use a booster seat after they have outgrown a forward-facing harnessed restraint (usually around age 4 and when they weigh 40 to 60 pounds).
Children should remain in a booster until they are 8 years old or 4-feet-9 inches tall. The Minnesota Department of Public Safety recommends relying on height instead of age for booster seats.
"The campaign is not about writing tickets, it's to demonstrate that we take the law seriously, because we've responded to unbelted serious injury crashes," Fowler said. "We want motorists to be aware that we are out there and are encouraging them to be the first enforcers by speaking up and reminding other passengers in the vehicle to be belted."
But as long as there are some people who don't wear seat belts, there is room for improvement for compliance.
"State-wide, there is 93 percent daytime usage," Fowler said. "But we still see half of vehicle occupants who are killed in a crash are not wearing seat belts. A lot of people think because cars are a lot safer now [they don't need seat belts], but all those safety designs are designed for people wearing seat belts. For example, air bags are meant to meet you in a crash, but if you're not belted, you're coming to meet it, and you end up suffering facial fractures or worse."
Fowler also notes that wearing a seat belt incorrectly is sometimes more dangerous than not wearing one at all. Not having it fastened can result in serious injuries or even death.
"Technically, cars have come a long way, but they're all designed and dependent on correct seat belt use," Fowler said.