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Minnesota Enacts Lifesaving Seat Belt Law

Legislation honors former GHSA Chairman Kathy Swanson

WASHINGTON, May 22 The following is a statement from Vernon F. Betkey, Jr., Chairman of the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA):

Yesterday, Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty signed the Kathryn Swanson Seat Belt Safety Act -- named in honor of the former director of the Minnesota highway safety office who died in 2008 after a battle with ALS. Kathy also served as the Chairman of GHSA in 2003 and 2004.

GHSA is delighted that Minnesota has become the 29th state to enact a primary seat belt law -- a provision that requires vehicle drivers and passengers to wear a seat belt and allows police to pull over those in violation. Previously, Minnesota law only allowed motorists to be ticketed if it was in conjunction with another driving offense. The new law takes effect on June 9.

The Minnesota Department of Public Safety (DPS) estimates that this new law will save up to 30 additional lives and prevent 400 injuries annually. Additionally, the DPS estimates it will result in a savings of $11 million in hospital charges the first year after passage.

Naming this new law after Kathy is a testament to her commitment to saving lives. She was a tireless safety advocate -- spending nearly 30 years in various positions in the Minnesota highway safety office. During this time, her leadership resulted in numerous life saving laws and programs. The one thing that was out of her reach was the primary seat belt law. She advocated for it until her death in 2008.

GHSA commends the Minnesota legislature, Governor Pawlenty, the state highway safety office and advocates across the state for making Kathy Swanson's dream a reality.