Utah gets tougher seat belt law with governor’s signature

ST. GEORGE – A bill toughening the state’s seat belt laws for a three-year trial period was signed by Gov. Gary Herbert Monday.

House Bill 79, the Safety Belt Law Amendments, creates a three-year pilot program that makes not wearing a seat belt a primary offense, meaning law enforcement can stop drivers for the offense alone. Before HB 79, not using the seat belt was a secondary offense, meaning the officer had to pull a car over for some other reason first.

Under the pilot program, a driver or a passenger 16 years and older who is not wearing a seat belt can be issued a warning on first offense, and a $45 citation on the second offense. The fine can be waived by taking a 30-minute course approved by the Utah Department of Safety.

After the trial period, the pilot program will sunset and seat belt offenses from July 1, 2018, and following may only be brought against anyone 19 or older and only then if they are pulled over for a violation other than failure to wear a seat belt.

Rep. Lee Perry, R-Perry, who sponsored the bill, and also works as a Utah Highway Patrol lieutenant, pushed for the bill’s passage. Perry said he has personally seen the tragic results of auto accidents where seat belts were not used.

“You can talk to any police officer who has been on a traffic accident who can absolutely say that a seat belt minimized an injury or helped saved a life,” St. George Police Sgt. Sam Despain said.

“We, as a police department, always encourage everybody to buckle up,” Despain said. “Statistics show seat belts save lives.”

Prior to HB 79’s passing, attempts to pass stricter seat belt laws died in the Legislature, as some lawmakers saw it as a potential infringement on personal freedom.

One such bill was the 2013 Senate Bill 114. It sought to make wearing a seat belt on Utah’s highways a primary offense, yet ultimately died in session that year. Bryan Hyde, a radio talk show host and a columnist for St. George News, wrote about SB 114 and his general objection to seat belt laws:

The problem with seat belt laws is that they are a gross misuse of state power …. Making a seat belt violation into a primary offense sidetracks police officers from actual crimes involving real, not imaginary, injured parties. It invites the state into our lives for reasons that have nothing to do with protecting our rights or promoting justice. Given the increasingly intrusive nature of the state, the less contact we have with members of its extractive branch, the better off we are.

According to The Salt Lake Tribune, Marty Carpenter, a spokesman for Herbert, said the governor signed the bill because seat belts can save lives.

“It’s something we should allow our highway patrolmen to make stops for, and remind people they should be wearing their seat belt,” Carpenter said.

HB 79 was signed along with 55 other bills Monday that are a part of the total 528 pieces of legislation that passed during the 2015 session of the Utah Legislature. Also signed in that batch of bill was House Bill 11, which allows the use of firing squads for executions if drugs for lethal injection cannot be obtained.

To date, Herbert has signed 144 of the 528 bills.

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Twitter: @MoriKessler

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2015, all rights reserved.

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  • mmmbacon March 24, 2015 at 8:11 pm

    They should pass a law to make us all carry first aid kits and carry a current CPR card to prove we are current on our first aid certification. Because it will make us all safer.

    The more idiot proof you make something…..the better the idiots will become.

    • Mesaizacd March 24, 2015 at 11:04 pm

      So will get better now.? LOL.!

  • Gary March 24, 2015 at 9:28 pm

    Of course the bill was sponsored by an employee of the state, an employee of the uhp. Running afoul of the law puts money into the coffers of the uhp.

  • BIG GUY March 25, 2015 at 5:26 am

    Bryan’s got a point, just like motorcycle helmet laws. But we all foot a part of the bill when folks not wearing seat belts are injured or killed in accidents. Tough call.

    • BIG GUY March 25, 2015 at 7:21 am

      If Bryan is logically consistent, he must object to the requirement that auto manufacturers install seat belts on all vehicles sold in this country. Would eliminating the requirements for air bags, collapsing steering columns, etc. be a good idea? I think not, but it would be the logical extension of Bryan’s thinking.

    • Bender March 28, 2015 at 2:02 am

      Only a “tough call”, BIG GUY, if you are a true Libertarian. In my experience those that call themselves libertarian are generally posers whose actual behavior shows them to have weak ideological knees.

      • Bryan Hyde March 28, 2015 at 9:21 am

        Says the person whose convictions are so firm that he can only share them anonymously. Thanks for the chuckle.

        • Bender March 28, 2015 at 10:47 am

          Ad hominem is all you got Hyde?

        • fun bag March 28, 2015 at 11:26 am

          Ooooooooh, someone got old hyde all riled up again. Poor little guy probly shedding tears all over his bowl of oatmeal… lmao

        • Chris March 28, 2015 at 11:53 am

          Amazingly poor comeback, Bryan. Tell us just how anonymity affects the “firmness” of a conviction. The real chuckle is from those of us who recognize your smug responses as the product of a truly second rate intellect.

  • sagemoon March 25, 2015 at 8:26 am

    Bryan makes a good point. I’m tired of the government treating me like an idiot and a child.

  • fun bag March 25, 2015 at 10:06 am

    Bryan Hyde = complete idiot and hypocrite with no credibility. Using a quote from that goon just lowers the standards of journalism right into the crapper.

    • partyhatbull March 25, 2015 at 1:06 pm

      You are just a boob Fun Bag.

  • Freelance March 25, 2015 at 1:02 pm

    Seat belts ore okay when used by women with really large breasts

  • JustBen March 27, 2015 at 12:32 am

    Making the seat belt law a primary offense is just another way to increase the revenue farming done by law enforcement. It really doesn’t have anything to do with safety, it all has to do with getting more money without raising taxes because raising taxes might get somebody unelected the next time we go to the polls. Nothing more, nothing less. The government cares about the government. It doesn’t care about you, it doesn’t care about me, and it doesn’t care about freedom nor the law.

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