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Forum staff reports, Published June 08 2012

Driver flees after car sheared in half by utility pole in Moorhead

MOORHEAD – A car that was sheared in half when it struck a utility pole early Wednesday in Moorhead is being held up by police as an example of how seat belts save lives.

Moorhead Police Lt. Joel Scharf included a photograph of the wrecked car in a news release today about how Clay County authorities issued 298 tickets for seat belt violations during a two-week “Click It or Ticket” campaign from May 21 to Sunday.

Scharf said the driver of the car lost control and struck the pole at about 2:47 a.m. Wednesday in the 700 block of First Avenue North. The driver fled the scene but has been identified, he said.

Had the driver not been wearing his seat belt, “there’s no doubt he would have been ejected” from the car, Scharf said in a phone interview.

“The driver, from all apparent contact with him, was not injured at all, other than burns across his chest from the seat belt,” Scharf said.

Police are still investigating the crash, and they haven’t released the 21-year-old driver’s name. He will likely face a reckless driving charge and possibly a DWI charge, Scharf said, noting alcohol was a factor in the crash.

Police are asking anyone with additional information about the crash call the police department at (701) 451-7660.

The seat belt enforcement effort was conducted on a nationwide level to increase seat belt compliance to limit preventable deaths and injuries, according to a news release.

Participating agencies in Clay County included the police departments in Moorhead, Dilworth, Glyndon and Hawley and the Clay County Sheriff’s Office.

According to a University of Minnesota study released in March, the state’s primary seat belt law has resulted in 68 fewer deaths, 320 fewer injuries and $45 million in avoided hospital charges since it was enacted three years ago, the news release stated.