Impacts of Minnesota's Primary Seat Belt Law
Frank Douma, Nebiyou Tilahun
Report no. CTS 12-06
In the spring of 2009, the Minnesota Legislature changed the state's seat belt law, making not wearing a seat belt a "primary" offense, where officers can ticket drivers for not wearing a seat belt even if no other traffic law is broken. Using data from the Minnesota Crash Records Database provided by the Department of Public Safety, the study utilized two methods of analysis, first comparing actual crash data from July 2009-June 2011 to expected data based upon trends from July 2004-June 2009, and second, comparing the expected post law change injury types estimated from the July 2006-June 2009 crash data to the actual post primary crash data from July 2009 through June 2011. Results of seat belt use and public opinion surveys were also reviewed. This study estimates that there have been 68-92 fewer fatalities from motor vehicle crashes, and 320-550 fewer serious injuries since the primary seat belt law went into effect. This improved safety record translates into at least $45 million in avoided hospital charges, including a direct savings of nearly $10 million or more tax dollars that would have paid for expenses charged to government insurers. The primary seat belt law has enjoyed the support of over 70% of all Minnesotans and observed use of seat belts statewide has risen from 86.7% in 2008 to an alltime high of 92.7% in 2011.