Evaluation Update on the Effectiveness of the Minnesota Primary Seatbelt Law

Principal Investigator(s):

Frank Douma, Director, State & Local Policy, Humphrey School of Public Affairs

Project summary:

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. The research team analyzed data from the Minnesota Crash Records Database provided by the Department of Public Safety. They compared predicted crash data generated from trends in years prior to passage of the Primary Seat Belt Law to actual crash data in the years after the law went into effect. The results estimate that there have been at least 132 fewer deaths, 433 fewer severe injuries and 1270 fewer moderate injuries since the primary seat belt law went into effect. This improved safety record translates into at least $67 million in avoided hospital charges, which includes direct charges of nearly $16 million or more Minnesota tax dollars that would that would have been billed to Medicare, Medicaid and other government insurers. Support for primary enforcement of Minnesota's seat belt law, which was high before the law change, has increased since. Support of Minnesotans surveyed has increased from 62 percent just before the law was passed to over 70 percent in 2013.

Project details:

  • Project number: 2014053
  • Start date: 01/2014
  • Project status: Completed
  • Research area: Transportation Safety and Traffic Flow
  • Topics: Safety