There is a rule in the Abrahamson family that the car does not move until everybody has fastened their seat belts.
It’s a rule that Kelli Abrahamson has followed since the day she was not wearing a seat belt and the vehicle she was riding in crashed. She was thrown 30 feet out the passenger window.
Deep scars on her face and forearm provide the daily reminder for her to buckle up, something she didn’t do in a moment of inattention and excitement 21 years ago — when it nearly proved fatal. She survived, but only 6 percent of motorists thrown from a vehicle live, said Lt. Tiffani Nielson of the State Patrol.
On Monday, the Minnesota Department of Public Safety kicked off a two-week “Click It or Ticket” education and enforcement campaign that will run through June 4.
Minnesotans are pretty good when it comes to wearing seat belts, with 93 percent of motorists strapped in, the Department of Public Safety said.
The 100 most deadly days on Minnesota state roads are from Memorial Day to Labor Day, and law enforcement is using the federally funded campaign get more people to buckle up.
Last year, 79 unbelted motorists died in crashes on state roads, the DPS said.
Abrahamson’s sister, Karla Bearce, is a crash reconstructionist for the State Patrol.
“It surprises me the number of fatality crashes I go to and look at the vehicle, and had the person had their seat belt on they would be just fine,” Bearce said.
Abrahamson was 18 and on her way to a graduation party on July 7, 1996, in Pierz, Minn. She hopped in her friend’s vehicle and forgot to buckle up. A half-mile down the road, the driver T-boned another vehicle. Everybody in both vehicles was wearing a seat belt except for Abrahamson, and she was ejected.
She spent days in the hospital and months undergoing surgeries to repair her jaw, cuts to her knee, and a badly injured forearm.
Abrahamson has been in two more crashes since. In one, seat belts saved her three boys and her husband, Jeff, when their vehicle hit a car that had been abandoned in a HOT lane on an Arizona freeway. All five family members walked away with scrapes and bruises.
Her third crash was near the Albertville outlet mall.
“We are the crash test family,” Abrahamson said. “My youngest always says I wear my seat belt so I don’t go out the window. If I have another crash, I can guarantee I’ll be wearing my seat belt.”