The "101 deadly days of summer" have been targeted for an intensive campaign to encourage seat belt use.
"The use of seat belts, we are convinced, is a major reason . . . for reduction in highway fatalities," said John T. Nielsen, commissioner of the Utah Department of Public Safety."We're going to talk to people about the benefits of compliance and then back it up with a redoubled enforcement effort," he said. "When you consider that safety belts could potentially cut the number of highway deaths in half, we need to do better."
Sgt. Dennis Platt of the Utah Highway Safety Office said 4,000 seat belt and speeding citations were issued last year during Memorial Day weekend and he expects the same number of tickets to be issued this year.
"(Issuing citations) is something we need to do to keep the death toll down," he said. The more the laws are enforced, the better they are kept. "Through education and enforcement, we hope to reduce the number of fatalities."
The announcement of the safety-belt program was planned to coincide with the beginning of National Safe Kids Week, May 16-22.
While seat belt use in Utah has been increasing, Nielsen said it is still only at 29 percent. He expects the numbers to increase with additional efforts from the state.
During a Monday press conference, Nielsen introduced "seat-belt survivor" Debbie Moon, who was recently involved in a serious accident on I-15 near Kaysville in which her car was demolished.
Moon and three small children in the car escaped injuries because they were wearing seat belts and in child safety seats, she said. A woman passenger was not wearing her seat belt, and she suffered a broken elbow, broken pelvis and a bruised kidney in the accident.
An ambulance driver later told Moon that upon receiving the call, he was afraid he would find kids scattered along the freeway. The kids never left their car seats until the police arrived to unbuckle them, she said. "Everyone was amazed that no one was seriously injured or killed."
Moon said she always wears her seat belt and the accident emphasized the importance of seat belts for her and her children. "We don't move an inch unless they're in their seats," she said.