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Report Reveals Weaknesses in Utah’s Driver Safety Laws

Nicole Nixon
SLCPD Deputy Chief Mike Brown, Representative Lee Perry (R-29) and Utah Highway Patrol Captain Doug McCleve discuss how HB79 will improve safety on Utah's roads

 A new report by the non-profit Utah Foundation examines several areas where the state could improve safety on the roads.

Mandated helmets for all motorcyclists, increased restrictions on teen drivers, and stricter driving laws for cell phone use would all lead to safer roads in the state. That’s according to a new report by the Utah Foundation. It points out that while Utah drivers could improve with seat belt usage, a new law will help bump that number up.  

House Bill 79, passed this year, now makes it a primary offense to go without a seat belt. It will require police officers to issue a warning rather than a citation the first time a driver or passenger is seen without a seat belt or seen wearing one incorrectly. On a person’s second offense, that driver will be cited but can waive the fine by taking a 30-minute safety course.

Representative Lee Perry says the new law is in a three-year trial period. “With the help of law enforcement, what we will see at the end of these three years is that our seatbelt usage rate is up, our fatality rate is down, and that the public has now changed their mind and understands that wearing a seatbelt is just as important as not driving drunk, just as important as not speeding, just as important as not following too close and all the other laws that we already have on the books,” he says.

Utah Highway Patrol Captain Doug McCleve says many fatalities in high-impact interstate crashes could be prevented if people buckled up. “What our average shows is that just a little bit over 50 percent of the fatality crashes that the Utah Highway Patrol handles in a year,  50-52 or 53 percent of those who pass away are not restrained,” he says.

Governor Gary Herbert signed HB79 into law last week; it will take effect in May.

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