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Seat belt laws save lives, help lower car insurance premiums

Minnesota's law making seat belt violations a primary offense for which police can pull over and ticket drivers went into effect on Tuesday, making it the 29th state to enact a primary seat belt law. Supporters said seat belt laws save lives and can reduce health and car insurance premiums.

The National Safety Council said wearing seat belts is the most effective way to prevent injuries and fatalities in car accidents. The council's president, Janet Froetscher, said seat belts saved more than 15,000 lives in 2007.

Although other states, including Florida, have recently joined the ranks of states with primary seat belt laws, opponents of such a law have halted similar legislation in Nevada.

But supporters point to evidence that seat belts not only reduce injuries and fatalities in car crashes, they also help cut down on healthcare costs and contribute to a reduction in car insurance premiums.

The Minnesota Department of Public Safety estimated that state's seat belt law will save up to $11 million in hospital costs in the first year.

A 2008 study by the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America concluded that primary enforcement of seat belt laws, though just one of many factors, plays a part in lowering car insurance premiums.

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