SANDY — When Mark Florence recalls the story of his family's brutal head-on collision, tears come to his eyes.
"My wife yelled out and said 'Look out,'" he said. "I looked ahead and saw a vehicle coming at high speed, crossing both lines of traffic. The hardest part, I think of the entire incident, was my daughter said she couldn't feel her legs, and my son said he couldn't breathe."
The Cedar City family of four was driving through Provo Canyon on July 6, 2017, for a weekend away for their son's birthday when the crash happened. Everyone was wearing seat belts, and both the Florences and emergency responders say their lives would have been lost had they not buckled up.
The Florences spoke at a Utah Highway Patrol press conference at Rio Tinto Stadium Thursday to advocate for seat belt safety and to jump-start Utah's 17th annual Click It or Ticket campaign. The campaign, which runs from May 21 to June 3, will include an increase of highway patrol officers monitoring vehicles to enforce seat belt laws.
Seventeen Utah lives have been lost this year because drivers and passengers were unrestrained, according to Utah Highway Patrol.
The Florences were rushed to the hospital following the crash. Christy Florence and her 16-year-old daughter, Maia, sustained serious spinal injuries, and 19-year-old Logan broke his shoulder. But, according to the family, it could have been a lot worse.
"We had our luggage go flying out the window," Christy Florence said. "That's just proof to me, if we hadn't been buckled, that would have been our bodies that were going out the windshield. There's no time to say, 'There's a car coming toward us; hurry, buckle up.'"
Trooper Blake Bradford, who responded to the crash, said there was no way the Florences would have survived had they not been wearing seat belts.
"When I came upon that scene, it was a horrific scene," he said. "There was a lot of damage. My first thoughts were, 'Nobody lived.'"
Since the accident, the Florences have been vocal advocates of buckling up.
"We were injured even while we were wearing seat belts, but an injury is better than death," Christy Florence said. "Our other option was death. Do you want to roll the dice to be that 1 in a million in a serious crash and survive while not wearing a seat belt?"
Logan Florence said before the accident, when his friends didn't wear seat belts, he didn't say anything.
"But after the crash, it's a real life lesson and I let everyone know if they're not wearing their seat belt," he said.
UHP Maj. Jess Anderson said 52 percent of fatal accidents in 2017 in Utah involved people who were not wearing their seat belts.
"I've been a trooper for 18 years, and I can tell you that the impact and consequence of wearing a seat belt are significant," Anderson said. "We implore you to wear your seat belt."
Bradford said to think of your family when you're considering whether to buckle up.
"The Florence family is here today as a family because they followed something really simple," he said. "They took two seconds to put on a seat belt. Is it restrictive and everything else? If you feel that way, I'm sorry, but I know that seat belts save lives."Comment on this story
After the press conference, the Utah Royals FC soccer team invited Maia Florence to the end of its practice. An avid soccer player, she had been told she was lucky she wasn't paralyzed by the spinal injuries. Maia had just gotten cleared to play soccer again by her doctor when the Utah Royals FC surprised her.
"It's the best thing, I had no idea," she said, adding she thought they were going to the state Capitol for the press conference, not Rio Tinto Stadium. "This just made my day."