Thousands of motorists have been cited since a tougher Utah seatbelt law went into effect nearly two months ago, state transportation officials said.
More than 6,000 drivers have been caught not wearing seatbelts since the law was enacted May 12, according to Utah Highway Patrol data. Of those, nearly 900 have received full citations. Full citations are tickets written for drivers who already got a first-time warning.
“There are a lot of people out there who say, ‘I don’t care what the law says, I’m not going to buckle up,’ ” said Rep. Lee Perry, R-Perry, who is also a Highway Patrol lieutenant and penned the initial legislation.
Under the new law, an offender who already got a warning can be fined $45. But the fine can be waived upon completion of a 30-minute safety course online. Failure to wear a seat belt was already a primary offense for drivers and passengers 18 and younger.
So far, the Utah Highway Patrol has made about 6,178 stops because of a lack of seatbelt use, the Salt Lake Tribune reported. That is a 57 percent jump compared with the same time period last year, when patrol officers conducted 3,928 stops.
More stops means more troopers are educating the public, Utah Highway Patrol spokesman Todd Royce said. The agency too often sees fatalities that could have been prevented with a seatbelt, he added.
“Still over 50 percent of fatal crashes involve the driver or one of the passengers not wearing seatbelts,” Royce said.
Among the examples he cited was a crash last month in Logan involving five Utah State University athletes. All five were seriously injured when a semi T-boned their SUV. According to Royce, none of them were buckled up.
“If everyone in that SUV had been wearing seatbelts, there’s a very good chance that three of them would have walked away with very minor injuries compared to what they sustained,” Perry said.
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