HB79: Teens’ deaths prompt mandatory seatbelt bill


William Glade
Capital West News

BRIGHAM CITY — In 2013, 18 teens were killed in car accidents in Utah. For parents in the Brigham City area, these are more than statistics.

Amanda “Mandi” Brown and Tyler Stuart were killed in a June 2013 accident when a truck they were riding in rolled near the Utah-Idaho border. They were not wearing seat belts and were thrown from the truck.

A Utah Highway Patrol officer responded to the scene. That UHP same officer and state lawmaker — Rep. Lee Perry, R-Perry – said he is filing a bill after grieving parents asked what could to prevent similar accidents in the future.

“There is no reason why two children died in that truck that day. If they had been wearing their seat belts they would have walked away from that motor vehicle crash,” Perry said.

Perry is sponsoring HB79 which would make Utah’s secondary seatbelt law a primary law, meaning vehicles could be pulled over and drivers could be issued citations for not wearing a seat belt. The current law does not permit law enforcement to pull over a driver if there only offense is not wearing a seat belt.

Perry said, “After sitting down with Mandi’s mom, Melissa, and having to go tell Tyler’s mom that he wasn’t coming home, both of them said, ‘What can we do so this doesn’t happen to another set of parents?’ so I said, ‘The only way we are going to solve this is if we have a primary seatbelt law.’”

Perry has filed similar legislation in previous sessions, but this time he feels that the measure will have a better chance of passage. Because of the increased speed limits on many of Utah’s road ways — especially on the interstate freeways — legislators may be more willing to support his bill.

“We have to get passed the idea that driving is not a right,” Perry said. “Driving is a privilege, and we control that privilege in lots of different ways.” Traffic laws of all types are in place to govern how people drive: speed limits, phone use, and driving while using banned substances, alcohol being one of the biggest ones, are all in place to keep road users safe, Perry explained.

Car accidents are the No. 1 killers of teens in the United States, according to Zero Fatalities. In 2013, of the eighteen teens killed in Utah three fourths of them were not wearing a seat belt at the time of impact.

“This is why to me HB79 is not just HB79 seat belt amendment law, I call it the ‘Tyler and Amanda Law,’ ” Perry said. The deaths of those two teens impacted not only the families, but friends as well. A day doesn’t go by where the teens aren’t missed, the parents said.

“Nobody should have to bury their child, especially the way Kelli and I had to,” said Melissa Brown, Both of Mandi’s parents spoke about how hard it has been since the death of their daughter. Both the parents and Perry believe the teens would have been wearing their seat belts if there had been a primary seatbelt law in Utah.

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