City police plan spring seat belt sweep

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April 5, 2004 // UPDATED 1:10 pm - April 25, 2007
By: Scott Russell
Scott Russell

Minneapolis police will ramp up seat belt enforcement again this spring, and buckling up could save you more than an $88 ticket (or $113 for failure to have a child in the proper restraint.)

Police can't issue a ticket for a seat belt violation unless a motorist has committed another violation, said Sgt. Wes Oslund of the Minneapolis police traffic unit. As a practical matter, he says, it's not difficult to find places to make traffic stops and do a seat belt check.

"There are tons of areas in the city where we can sit and we can't stop the cars fast enough for the violations that are coming through," Ostlund said.

In Downtown, for instance, any bridge is good -- Hennepin Avenue, 3rd Avenue or the 10th Avenue bridges -- as are freeway entrance ramps with metered lights or car pool lanes, he said. "We can sit there and watch for cheaters," he said

The big seat belt enforcement push will come May 24-June 6. The Police Department didn't get its usual funding through the Safe and Sober program (a program that pays overtime for targeted patrols for such things as underage drinking, speeding and seat belt compliance, Oslund said.) At the last minute, however, Minneapolis got $10,000 from the federal government's "Ticket or Click It" program for this year's seat belt initiative.

The grant will pay for police overtime for 44 five-hour shifts during the two-week period, Oslund said. The goal is not to give warnings, but tickets. It takes about three citations to change drivers' behavior, "then they get sick and tired of paying for it," he said.

During a seat-belt enforcement shift, Oslund said he might stop drivers for an infraction but let them go with a warning if they are belted.

"Maybe I stop people normally at 7 or 8 mph or 10 mph over [the speed limit]," he said. "If I am looking for seat belts, I might start stopping people at 5 mph over. And then if you have your belt on you will get a warning. If you don't have your belt on, you get a ticket."

"Obviously, if it [the speeding] is too high, they are not getting a warning."