People are killing themselves on Utah roadways because of poor driving habits, and state officials and emergency responders said Thursday they want the deaths to stop.
Three years after the state started a campaign to reduce fatalities on Utah roads to zero, numbers are about break-even. Last year, 285 people died on state and local roads. In 2006, a total of 287 people died, while in 2005, a reported 282 people died on the road.
"We believe at this point, we need people to change their behavior," said John Njord, director of the Utah Department of Transportation during a media event Thursday. "We need to make sure when people are getting on the highway, they are prepared to travel safely."
Of the 285 people who died on Utah roads last year, 114 were in crashes involving improper safety restraint. Another 72 of the deaths were speed-related, while drunken driving and fatigue each contributed to 37 deaths.
During Thursday's event, different vehicles used by Utah emergency responders were displayed around a podium, including a helicopter, fire truck and police car.
Christi Anderson, of Highland, spoke of a car accident last October in which her family's car rolled three times after being struck by another vehicle.
Anderson said her husband was the only one in the car without a seat belt. Her five children, ranging from 2 to 12, were all buckled in.
"We know by the grace of God he's here today," Anderson said of her husband. "I'm so grateful for seat belts. My husband wears one every time now."
During the upcoming legislative session, a bill is expected to be debated to make not buckling up a primary offense for people 19 or older. Current law states people can be pulled over and ticketed for not wearing a seat belt only if they commit some other traffic violation first.
A second bill is being drafted to tighten Utah law regarding safety restraints for young children. Current law only requires children to be in safety seats until they are 5 years old. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recommends a booster seat until a child is 8 years old.For more information, or for a further breakdown of traffic fatality statistics from 2007, log on to www.zerofatalities.com.
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