***Note: this bill has been substituted, this analysis may no longer be valid***
Picking up where he left off last year, Rep. Lee Perry (Republican – Perry) is once again running legislation to beef up Utah’s seat belt laws with HB 79 – Safety Belt Law Amendments.
Perry, whose serves as a supervisor for the Utah Highway Patrol, is proposing to make failure to wear a seat belt a primary offense. Currently, officers can only issue a ticket when stopping the vehicle for another reason. Perry is also proposing to lower the age window from 19 to 16 for the law.
Perry ran similar bills in 2013 and 2014, but both went down to defeat.
During the 2013 General Session, despite support from the Utah Department of Transportation and Utah Highway Patrol, the bill failed to gain the endorsement of the House Transportation Committee on a 2-5 vote.
During the 2014 General Session, amid concerns from several lawmakers, the bill was sent back to the Rules Committee for interim study.
This year, Representative Perry is calling his proposed legislation the “Tyler and Mandi” bill in memory of Tyler Stuart and Mandi Brown, two Brigham City teenagers who were killed last year in a car accident on I-15 in Tremonton. Neither were wearing a seat belt.
Perry told The Salt Lake Tribune that seat belt usage in the 33 states with primary laws increased 10 to 15 percent. He believes that Utah’s rate, which sits around 80 percent, could be increased to as much as 90 to 95 percent. Perry also points to estimates from the Utah Highway Safety Office. According to their calculations, 35 to 37 more lives could be saved a year if they were wearing a seat belt.
This is a great bill that could potentially save many lives if enacted. HB 79 is sure to run into opposition from conservative legislators who feel that such legislation is too intrusive, as it has in the past, but perhaps with support from victims’ families this will be the year it will finally pass. Not only does the legislation save lives, it will have the practical effect of reducing the amount of time needed to clear accidents, a clear benefit to the public during busy rush hours. In rural areas too, where a sudden death can rock a community, such as the case of Tyler and Mandi, the benefit is clear. Buckling up is a quick and easy way to save lives, and it is in the state’s, public’s, and individual’s interest to more strictly enforce such safety measures.
To contact Representative Perry, click here or call 435-720-7838.
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