Traffic death might have been avoided by seatbelt

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    By KELLEY RADUNICH

    Last Thursday, Orem resident Kristina Boone made a left turn in her 1971 Land Rover onto 800 North in Orem and collided with a Honda Civic. She was thrown from her car, landed on the inside lane of traffic, and was killed instantly when a semitruck ran her over.

    Her death may have been prevented had she been wearing a seat belt, said Sgt. Gary Downey of the Orem Police.

    According to the National Safety Council, 63 percent of Utahns wear their seat belts consistently. The percentage of Americans across the country who buckle up is 73.6 percent, said Senior Officer Michael Lastowski of the Provo Police.

    “Seat belt usage has steadily gone up in Utah since 1986, when the state implemented a mandatory seat belt law, but we still need to encourage it more,” he said.

    Sgt. Bernie Turner of the Orem Police said about 30 percent of drivers he passes while on duty are not wearing seat belts.

    “You can’t be pulled over just because I see you’re not wearing a seat belt. It’s only considered a secondary offense. There are several states, including California, where this is legal, though,” he said.

    If a child is seen not wearing a seat belt, police are allowed to pull the car over and write a citation, Turner said.

    “We’re pretty aggressive on child restraint. If we stop you, the fine is between $14-$16 for every person without a seat belt on,” he said.

    Turner said that drivers offer numerous excuses for not buckling up.

    “They’ll tell me it’s too inconvenient, or they’re too restrictive. Others say it rubs their neck and causes irritation because they’re too short,” he said.

    Officer Dave Bennett of the University Police said the rate of BYU students wearing seat belts is higher than the Utah average.

    “From my experience, when I talk with students after an accident, 95 percent or higher report that they were wearing a seat belt at the time of the accident,” he said.

    Many BYU students have been in car accidents that may have claimed their lives had they not been wearing a seat belt.

    Mark Beidleman, a senior from Los Angeles, majoring in business management, said wearing a seat belt definitely saved his life during a car crash in Idaho.

    “My friends and I got our Suburban sucked off the side of the road in a blizzard. We rolled down a 30-foot cliff and landed upside down, suspended by our seat belts. When we took off our seat belts in an attempt to get out, we dropped straight on our heads.

    “All the cops that showed up said that if we hadn’t been wearing our seat belts, we would have gotten our necks broken for sure. Ever since then, I’ve always worn it, even if I’m travelling a short distance,” he said.

    Mehrsa Baradaran, a junior from Goshen, N.Y., majoring in English, has other reasons for wearing her seat belt.

    “The little red light on my dashboard won’t go off until I put my seat belt on. It gets kind of annoying, so I always end up wearing it,” she said.

    But some BYU students don’t see a point to wearing a seat belt.

    “I rarely wear my seat belt. I’ve never gotten in an accident, and don’t plan to, so I really don’t see the need for it, ” said Sarah Garrett, a sophomore from Orlando, Fla., majoring in recreational management.

    Senior Officer Lastowski said local programs like the Officer Friendly program and Traffic School work to reinforce the importance of buckling up to local drivers.

    “The people who don’t wear their seat belts can’t be classified as a being a certain type of person. It’s a problem that’s prevalent among all classes of people, people from all walks of life,” he said.

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