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Now-paralyzed crash survivor encourages Utahns to buckle up

Posted at 6:08 PM, May 13, 2019
and last updated 2019-05-13 20:48:19-04

TAYLORSVILLE, Utah -- The Utah Highway Patrol is a week away from launching its annual Click It or Ticket campaign.

From May 20 to June 2, more than 60 agencies across the state will work more than 600 overtime shifts to prevent Utahns from going through what Matt Blanchard experienced 13 years ago.

In 2006, Blanchard thought he was invincible.

“I was not the guy that could get hurt. I was 10 feet tall and bulletproof,” Blanchard said.

He thought he was so invincible that he chose not to wear a seatbelt — even after his young co-worker asked him to buckle up three separate times.

“You don't tell me what to do. I don't know if any of you are that way, but you just don't tell me what to do," Blanchard said. "So I said, 'Brett, I'm in control. I'm driving. We're good.'"

They were headed to Cedar City in the middle of winter.

“The further up the canyon we went, rain turned to snow," Blanchard said. "And for the second time, Brett turns to me and says, 'Matt put your seatbelt on.' And for the second time, I said no."

The road was in whiteout condition when his colleague asked for the third time.

“'Matt, put your seatbelt on.' And before I could answer, I lost control of my truck,” Blanchard said.

His truck rolled three times down I-15.

“My back went into the steering column and I literally snapped myself right in two. I knew immediately," he said. "I told him, 'Brett, I'm paralyzed.'"

He was airlifted to the hospital, where he learned his instincts were correct. Blanchard injured his spinal cord and was paralyzed from the waist down.

“To be honest with you, I wanted to die. If I had to live a life in a wheelchair and not be able to play sports again, not be able to hike and run, then I didn`t want to live,” he said.

Several years later, thanks to the support of his family, Blanchard is finally at peace with his life in a wheelchair, but he can't help but think, 'What if?'

“If I were wearing my seatbelt, I'd be walking,” he said.

It's a regret he hopes nobody else will have to live with.

“Please take my story and learn from my mistake. Buckle up,” he said.

Blanchard’s colleague, Brett, who asked him to buckle up three times, was wearing his seatbelt and walked away from that crash with no injuries.

UHP there were 174 deadly car crashes in Utah in 2018. In about one-third of those, the victim was not wearing a seatbelt.