With the unofficial start of the summer travel season coming up with this weekend's Memorial Day holiday, officials with the state's Department of Traffic Safety are reminding motorists to wear their seat belts, slow down and not to engage in behaviors that take attention off the roads and hands off the wheel.
This comes as traffic deaths have topped 100 this year, a slight uptick from the 96 reported to date in 2012. At this pace, the number of deaths on state roads will top 400, the Office of Traffic Safety said.
Of the 102 deaths reported as of Monday, at least 30 people were not wearing seat belts. That is despite of a new Click-It or Ticket campaign that began this week. More than 400 agencies will be looking for drivers who are not buckled up while driving. The campaign runs through June 2. Other states also are enacting similar campaigns.
"A seat belt is your number-one defense against the spike of drunk, distracted and speeding drivers that we see in the summer," said Donna Berger, director of the Office of Traffic Safety.
According to the OTS, in the past three years 852 motorists have died in crashes and 42 percent (361) of those were not wearing seatbelts. More than half of those unbelted motorists (includes passengers, too) who died were between 16 and 29. A vast majority of those (84 percent) occurred outside the Twin Cities metro area.
"There is still a major issue with seat belt use among teens and young adults, especially in Greater Minnesota," Berger said.
In Minnesota, all person in a motor vehicle are required to wear a seat belt.
Stats can only go so far in getting the message about safe driving across. To put a real face on crashes and deaths, the OTS launched a crash victims memorial web site in 2011 where friends and family members of victims can post a tributes.
"These stories connect people to the real life-and-death consequences of unsafe driving," Berger said.