Impacts of Minnesota's Primary Seat Belt 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 to make lack of seat belt use a primary offense, meaning law enforcement 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 Minnesota Department of Public Safety, this project used two methods of analysis: first, comparing actual crash data from July 2009 to June 2011 to the expected data based on trends from July 2004 to June 2009; and second, comparing the expected post-law change in injury types estimated from the July 2006 to 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 research estimates there have been 68 to 92 fewer fatalities from motor vehicle crashes and 320 to 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 in tax dollars that would have paid for expenses charged to government insurers. The primary seat belt law has enjoyed the support of more than 70 percent of all Minnesotans, and observed use of seat belts statewide has risen from 86.7 percent in 2008 to an all-time high of 92.7 percent in 2011.

Project details: