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Utah Highway Patrol kicks off seat belt campaign

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Posted at 4:50 PM, May 20, 2013
and last updated 2013-05-20 18:50:06-04

SALT LAKE CITY - A pickup truck dangling from a crane in front of the Utah State Capitol on Monday acted as a visual message about seat belt safety.

The truck, suspended by seat belt material, kicked off this year's Click It or Ticket campaign.

The Utah Highway Patrol says most Utahns - around 80 percent - use a seat belt, but that still leaves hundreds of thousands of drivers and passengers who don't buckle.

Starting Monday, troopers will have extra eyes on the road, focusing on commuters who aren't wearing seat belts.

"If an officer sees you not buckled up and you do get pulled over, it is a $45 fine. That is not our main focus. Our main focus is to change that behavior, to let people know, put the seat belt on," said UHP Sgt. Ted Tingey.

UHP plans to add 450 overtime shifts for troopers statewide from now until June 2. This year, they'll be focusing on pickup drivers.

Nearly one in four registered vehicles in Utah is a pickup truck, and UHP says those drivers are less likely to buckle up.

"You get in the pickup truck, you figure it's a larger vehicle, I'm gonna be safer," Tingey said.

Clint Leary is happy to have gotten into a habit of buckling up, something he believes saved his life last year.

"I can remember my dad, when he'd buy a new truck he'd wrap the seat belt up and stuff it behind the seat. You grew up that way, you just didn't wear a seat belt," Leary said.

"We got to the Lamb's Canyon turnoff there, and there was water that was running across the road, and it hydroplaned and it shot my truck to the left. We went up and over the jersey barrier, rolled several times."

Leary, his son and their friend walked away thanks to seat belts, he says.

"We took the actual seat belt and cut it and put it on the key chain, and it's just a reminder to wear your seat belt," he said.

Last year, 217 people died on Utah's roads. More than one-third of those were not wearing seat belts.

"It's hard. It's devastating. I sit back and look at that and I think this could have been prevented by a simple behavior of putting two ends together and making a click," Tingey said.

A ticket for not wearing a seat belt is $45.