Shaw: Accident reports illustrate the need for a primary seat belt law in North Dakota

Shaw shares statistics from the ND Highway Patrol about fatal accidents where the victims didn't wear seat belts.

Jim Shaw
Jim Shaw

North Dakota’s secondary seat belt law is a disaster because it doesn’t motivate many people to buckle up. Tragically, dozens of them needlessly die every year. In the past, I’ve given many reasons why North Dakota needs a primary seat belt law. This time, I will just quote from North Dakota Highway Patrol reports of fatal accidents in recent months, where the victims didn’t wear seat belts, and let the heartbreaking reports speak for themselves.

Two things I need to mention first. I am changing the names of those who died, so I won’t add more pain to the grieving families. Also, people not wearing seat belts during a crash are 30 times more likely to be ejected from their vehicles. More than 3 out of 4 people who are ejected die from their injuries.

  • Victim: A 35-year-old man from Upham. “Johnson drove off the roadway to the right and overcorrected to get back on the roadway. Johnson lost control of the vehicle and entered the west ditch. Vehicle rolled and driver was ejected from the vehicle. Johnson was pronounced deceased on scene.”


  • North Dakota House kills bill to loosen seat belt law Hazelton Republican Rep. Jeff Magrum said his bill aimed to reflect the idea that the government shouldn't be tasked with protecting residents from themselves. Magrum said during a committee hearing on the bill that he rarely wears a seat belt in his own vehicle.
  • Bill to toughen seat belt enforcement passes North Dakota Senate The 28-18 up-vote in the Senate chamber on Wednesday, Jan. 20, means North Dakota is one step closer to joining the other 35 states with primary enforcement seat belt laws. Senate Bill 2121 will cross over to the House when the chambers exchange legislation next month.
  • Victim: A 16-year-old boy from Forman. “Smith struck a deer in the roadway. The jeep lost control and entered the east ditch. The jeep overturned (rolled) multiple times causing Smith to be ejected…Smith was pronounced deceased on scene.”
  • Victim: A 67-year-old man from Karlsruhe. “Jackson left the roadway and entered the west ditch. The GMC vaulted over a field approach, overturned, and came to rest on its passenger side. Jackson was partially ejected during the crash and was pinned underneath the vehicle. Jackson was pronounced deceased at the scene.”
  • Victim: A 25-year-old woman from Dunseith. “Thompson was driving the Chevrolet north on 33 rd Avenue NE when she lost control. The Chevrolet ran off the roadway into the west ditch where it overturned. Thompson was ejected and died at the scene.”
  • Victim: A 67-year-old man from Minot. “A witness stated the vehicle drifted into the southbound lane and then back into the northbound lane and entered the east ditch and overturned. The driver was not wearing a seat belt and was ejected and died at the scene.”
  • Victim: A 26-year-old man from Bismarck (a passenger): “As the vehicle traveled through the northbound lane it entered the east ditch and overturned. Jones was ejected and pronounced deceased on scene.”
  • Victim: A 45-year-old woman from Douglas. “The vehicle left the roadway and entered the south ditch where it struck an approach and vaulted. The vehicle overturned coming to rest on its wheels…The driver was ejected and died at the scene.”
  • Victim: An 18-year-old man from Richardton. “Williams lost control of the Buick and the vehicle entered the east ditch. Vehicle rolled into an adjacent pasture ejecting the driver. The driver died on scene.”

There are too many of these accident reports in North Dakota. Too many preventable deaths. It’s way past time for the Legislature to save some lives.
Shaw is a former WDAY TV reporter and former KVRR TV news director. Email

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Forum's editorial board nor Forum ownership.

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