Brandi Jewett, Forum News Service, Published February 17 2014
Cass seat belt rate just below national average; county ranks 5th highest in ND surveyBISMARCK – Cass County had the fifth-highest rate of seat belt use in 2013 among North Dakota counties measured in a survey by the state’s Department of Transportation.
Among all vehicle occupants observed in the study, 85.2 percent in Cass County were wearing their seat belt, according to the study.
That’s higher than the statewide rate of 77.7 percent and just below the nationwide rate of 86 percent, the study shows.
Survey data were gathered at 320 sites across 16 counties. More than 22,000 cars and their occupants were observed and whether or not they were clearly wearing a seat belt was recorded.
Eastern motorists overall were in better compliance with seat-belt laws than their western counterparts, coming in at 80.7 percent compliant in the east and 73.9 percent in the west.
Cass County ranked behind 88.4 percent in Pembina County, 87 percent in Stark County, 86.4 percent in Richland County and 85.6 in Stutsman County.
The three counties in the North Dakota survey with the lowest rates were McKenzie with 54.4 percent, Ward with 57.2 percent and Traill with 61.5 percent.
Grand Forks County had a 69.9 percent compliance rate, and Burleigh County was at 74.5 percent.
Cass County has made dramatic progress in its compliance rates over the past decade, Fargo police Lt. Joel Vettel said.
“(We’re) not surprised that the eastern side of the state is higher,” Vettel said. “We really tried to push that in our region … we’re encouraged more and more people are buckling up.
Moorhead police Lt. Tory Jacobson said comparable numbers for counties in Minnesota weren’t immediately available.
A study by the Minnesota Department of Public Safety released in October showed seat belt usage at a record high of 94.8 percent statewide.
In North Dakota, officers cannot pull over an adult for not wearing his or her seat belt, but they can issue a ticket if a car is stopped for a traffic violation such as speeding. Minnesota has a “primary” seat-belt law, meaning officers can make a traffic stop to enforce the state’s seat-belt laws.
In the North Dakota study, men were observed abstaining from seat belts more often than women. About 87 percent of female car occupants put on seat belts compared to 72 percent of males.
Seat belt use rates also varied by vehicle. Overall, only 68 percent of pickup occupants buckled up compared to other vehicle types. All other passenger vehicle types had a usage rate of at least 81 percent.
Forum reporter Emily Welker
contributed to this report.