Minnesota state police participated in a campaign to enforce the state’s new Primary Seat Belt Law on Oct. 9 to 22, according to a press release by the Minnesota Department of Public Safety.
The release said over 10,000 seat belt citations were issued during the campaign. Seventy-one of the citations were written by the Cass and Clay County Sheriff’s Offices, according to a police report.
The new seat belt law went into effect on June 9, 2009. According to the release, the new law states that everyone in a car, whether they are in a front or back seat, must be wearing a seat belt. Any children in the car must be in a proper safety seat.
From the time the seat belt law was put in place to the beginning of November, the release reported 16 fewer deaths related to unused seat belts in Minnesota than in 2008.
Senior Eric Taylor said it is the responsibility of the driver to tell their passengers to use a seat belt.
“I make sure everyone in my car is wearing a seat belt,” he said. “I think it’s a good safety law, but I don’t see how we should be forcing somebody to do something to protect themselves. It is peoples’ individual rights to choose if they will wear a seat belt or not.”
The law made riding without a seat belt a primary offense. This means Minnesota police can now pull over a car when they see someone does not have a seat belt on; they do not need to have another reason, like driving over the speed limit.
Senior Ben Saunders said it is common for students to drive or ride without a seat belt.
“I just remember when I was a freshman and one person would have a car and everyone would pile in for a ride to get somewhere,” he said.
Junior Carol Tweten said paying attention to seat belt issues may cause police to overlook other drivers being reckless, which could harm people who have done nothing wrong. She said when riding without a seat belt, the person is putting themselves in danger.
”There are more serious crimes that cops should be looking for,” Tweten said.
Junior Colten Kohler said it should be a passenger’s choice if they do not want the protection a seatbelt can offer.
“I’d be livid if I got pulled over because someone in my car wasn’t wearing a seat belt,” Kohler said.
Concordia has guidelines about who can drive campus-insured cars after traffic citations, like not wearing a seat belt or speeding, occur, said Erik Ramstad, assistant director of Facility Services.
“We don’t run into it very often,” he said.
Ramstad said privileges to drive campus-insured cars can be taken away if a driver has citations on their record.
The college may not be notified if a student has a citation on their record, said Ramstad. It depends on when the citation occurred.
Ramstad said any traffic violations students receive while driving a college-insured car is the driver’s responsibility.
The report said if pulled over for a violation of the seat belt law, there may be over a $100 fine for the driver, which would be a heavy fine for a college student.
Senior Dawit Endale said he would ask passengers to wear a seat belt if it would save him a fine, even though he thought the fine was too high.
“It’s just too much to charge for seat belts,” said Endale. “How much are they going to charge for something more serious, like having a DVD player in the front seat or texting in the car?”
Endale said he expects the seat belt law to be less important with time. He said there is always a time when a new policy is enforced, but it always reaches a peak. After, Endale said, the public loses interest.
“Give it two years and it should be well forgotten,” Endale said.
Julie Guggemos is a senior at Concordia studying English Writing. In addition to her position as PULSE Editor at the Concordian, she is also an intern at the High Plains Reader, a publication out of Fargo, ND, and a tutor at Concordia’s Writing Center. After graduation Julie plans to attend a publishing program and look for work in the publishing industry.