Researchers in Minnesota are trying to quantify the effects of seat belt use on health care expenditures.

A new analysis of 2002 Minnesota crash records suggests that hospital costs for unrestrained vehicle-crash victims in Minnesota are 94% higher than hospital costs for belted victims, according to the Minnesota Seat Belt Coalition, St. Paul, Minn.

Increasing Minnesota seat belt use to 94%, from the current rate of 84%, could cut all payers’ expenditures on crash-related hospital care an average of $19 million per year over the next 10 years, researchers estimate.

Total savings could be far higher, because the study includes only hospital bills. The study excludes doctor fees, specialist fees, ambulance costs, fees for clinic visits, and payments for prescription drugs.