Legislators propose expanding seatbelt, child safety restraint enforcement laws
When the 2003 Utah Legislature concludes, Carbon County motorists and passengers traveling inside motor vehicles may face stiffer traffic regulations.
In addition to addressing the state's budget woes, lawmakers are considering four proposals designed to reduce traffic deaths and injuries on Utah's highways.
The proposals introduced into the 2003 legislative session include bills focusing on beefing up motor vehicle seatbelt requirements as well as enforcement procedures, restrictions on passengers in pickup trucks and child safety restraint device regulations.
Senate Bill 99 calls for expanding the scope of seatbelt enforcement by classifying violations as primary rather than secondary offenses.
The legislation favors empowering law enforcement officers to stop vehicles when occupants are not wearing seatbelts.
Traffic safety experts indicate that, after adopting similar guidelines, states with the stricter regulations in place reported fewer accident injuries, a lower number of deaths and a reduction in related financial costs.
Unbelted passengers are 17 times more likely to die of injuries incurred in a traffic accident than buckled up travelers, according to statistics compiled by AAA Utah.
In addition, unbelted passengers are 6.4 times more likely to require inpatient hospitalization for traffic accident injuries and 2.8 times more likely to require emergency room medical treatment.
The University of Utah's crash outcome data evaluation system (CODES) estimates that buckling up would have saved 142 lives, 263 inpatient hospitalizations and 1,277 emergency room visits stemming from traffic accidents occurring across the state during 2000.
Medical expenses for unrestrained passengers injured in accidents register 50 percent to 55 percent higher than treatment costs for buckled up victims.
Utahns could have saved $7 million in 2000 by fastening seatbelts in 2000, indicates CODES.
If unbelted victims had been properly restrained, government assistance programs would have saved $1.2 million.
Senate Bill 125 prohibits children younger than 18 years of age from traveling in the back of a pickup truck.
According to CODES, passengers riding in cargo areas are 12 times more likely to die and three times more likely to be hospitalized than occupants traveling inside a vehicle. The average age of cargo passengers in Utah is 15, compared to 20 for occupants inside a vehicle and 33 for drivers.
House Bill 84 attempts to remove the exemption from Utah's seatbelt law that allows unlimited passengers after all safety restraints are used by occupants.
Along with lacking personal protection in the event of an accident, unbelted travelers pose a potential danger to properly restrained passengers. The impact of a collision can throw unbelted occupants with extreme force into fellow travelers inside the vehicle.
House Bill 84 favors expanding Utah law to reflect the latest safety information regarding child safety and booster seats.
Currently, state regulations require youngsters to ride in a child safety seat until age 5.
The proposed legislation mandates restraining youngsters in child safety or booster seats until they turn 8 or measure four feet nine inches tall.
One in 10 Utah children involved in traffic accidents during 2000 died or required hospital care due to related injuries, indicates CODES.
Young traffic accident victims can suffer neck, abdominal or spinal injuries and are frequently fully or partially ejected from improper fitting adult seatbelts.