Authorities have long asserted that seat belts and car seats save lives, and Erica Bodell of Cambridge is a firm believer.

Almost four years ago, she took a moment to properly secure her daughter, Havana, then 3, in a five-point harness, forward-facing car seat before driving home — and it turned out to be a lifesaving move.

A drunken driver plowed head-on into Bodell’s car in Isanti County in November 2015. The crash severely injured Havana’s two brothers and left the little girl paralyzed with a broken neck. She was placed on a ventilator to help her breathe. Doctors said she would likely never walk again.

But Havana got a chance to heal because her mother had strapped her in. On Thursday, against the odds, Havana, now 7, walked to the podium with her mother at the Department of Public Safety’s headquarters during a news conference to announce a two-week “Click It or Ticket” enforcement campaign that runs Monday through Sept. 28.

“I’m thankful that I took those few extra seconds to ensure her safety, and the safety her brothers,” Erica Bodell said. “I would hate to look back and think ‘what if?’ What if I had not taken that time to do my job in helping her stay safe? She was still hurt, but because she was properly in her car seat, she survived. That is what gave her the chance to get better.”

Minnesota law requires drivers and passengers in the front and back seats to be buckled up or restrained in a child safety seat. A seat belt ticket costs $25, but the cost rises more than $100 with court fees.

In Minnesota, vehicle occupants buckle up about 93% of the time, according to results of the 2019 Minnesota Seat Belt Survey. That’s down slightly from the nearly 94% rate achieved in 2013, the highest on record. Despite high compliance, there are enough people not wearing restraints to make enforcement efforts like “Click It or Ticket” necessary.

Over the past five years, 18 children under age 7 have died in motor vehicle wrecks, and a majority of them were not restrained. But during that time, thousands of other children involved in crashes but properly restrained were not hurt, the Department of Public Safety said.

Last year, 96 motorists of all ages who were not wearing seat belts died in crashes, and more than 34,700 were ticketed for failing to buckle up. Wearing a seat belt doesn’t guarantee that a motorist won’t die in a crash, but “it may save their life,” said Lt. Gordon Shank of the Minnesota State Patrol.

Erica Bodell is convinced of that. In the days after the crash, Havana was hooked up to wires and tubes and had to wear a halo to keep her head and neck straight. She went through months of physical therapy but did make a full recovery.

“I’m convinced that the car seat and seat belts are why we are alive today,” Bodell said.

Standing water on I-494

Drive reader Bill noticed that frequently there is standing water on westbound I-494 under the Penn Avenue bridge, even when it has not rained for days. The water started appearing this summer before work on the tunnel for the new Orange Line BRT began, he said. He wondered why.

“Above-average rainfall this summer has raised the water table underground and the water leaks through cracks in the concrete,” said MnDOT spokesman David Aeikens.

MnDOT is exploring solutions, he said.


Follow news about traffic and commuting at The Drive on Got traffic or transportation questions, or story ideas? E-mail, tweet @stribdrive or call Tim Harlow at 612-673-7768.