Lawmaker proposes bill for primary seat belt law

Posted at 6:35 PM, Feb 02, 2015

SALT LAKE CITY -- "It was a fender bender, really. If she had been in her seat belt she would have walked away with no injuries," said Debbie Hill, who lost her daughter in car accident more than four years ago.

In September of 2010 Debbie Hill’s daughter Chelsea, 24, died after she was ejected from the sunroof of vehicle when a distracted driver rear-ended her and a friend in a parking lot.

Chelsea Hill was in the passenger seat, her best friend was behind the wheel. They were driving only five mph in the parking lot when they were hit.

Their car rolled and Chelsea Hill, who was not wearing a seat belt, was ejected.

It is stories like these that prompted Rep. Lee Perry, R-Perry, a lieutenant for Utah Highway Patrol, to push for a primary seat belt law for a second time.

"Between 82-83 percent of our citizens are wearing our seat belts and 50 percent of our automobile fatalities are people who are not wearing seat belts,” Perry said.

Perry said if police could pull over motorists for simply not buckling up, seat belt use would go up by 7 percent.

Not only would it save lives, Perry adds, it would save taxpayers around $32 million in hospital costs.

“This is not just a personal choice -- this affects many people, it affects the family of those who get left behind and it also affects everyone of us as tax payers and as citizens because we end up picking up the cost as well and we lose valuable members of our community because of one simple reason,” Perry said.

The most common contributing factor to roadway fatalities is not buckling up, according officials with Utah Department of Transportation.

Perry hopes his bill will help keep loved ones from becoming a statistic.

“Until you've lost a family member to something as silly as not wearing a seat belt I don't think you can have a true appreciation for what we are trying to accomplish,” Perry said.