No seat belt leading cause of death in 2013 fatal crashes in Utah

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(Infograph courtesy zerofatalities.com)

(Infograph courtesy zerofatalities.com)

On Oct. 24, 2013, 23-year-old Cameron Warren Foster was driving in Springville when he lost control of his car. The 2004 Nissan 350Z hit a power pole — causing it to snap — and then a flatbed trailer that was parked on the side of the road.

Foster was just one of the 71 people who died in traffic accidents in 2013 because they weren’t wearing seat belts, according to a preliminary report from the Utah Department of Transportation. Improper restraint was the leading factor in 46.7 percent of all fatal crashes in Utah last year.

Orem Lt. Craig Martinez said the majority of people in his city who are stopped by police or involved in crashes are wearing seat belts.

“I would say the majority of the time they are wearing seat belts,” Martinez said. “We do write people tickets from time to time. It’s a lot better now than it ever has been.”

In his experience, Martinez said the people who aren’t wearing seat belts are generally baby boomers — people who weren’t required to wear seat belts when they started driving.

He said there aren’t many fatal crashes in Orem. In fact, the two fatal crashes last year involved a homicide and a DUI.

Statistics by county for 2013 aren’t available yet, but in 2012 improper restraint was a factor in 400 crashes in Utah County, according to the state’s Zero Fatalities website. In those 400 crashes, there were 24 serious injuries and six fatalities.

According to UDOT, other deadly driving behaviors in 2013 included drowsy driving, a factor in 12 fatalities; distracted driving, a factor in 11 fatalities; aggressive driving, a factor in 50 deaths; and impaired driving, a factor in 28 fatalities. In 2013, 219 people died in crashes on Utah roads. In 2012, 217 people died in crashes.

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Amie Rose has more than 14 years of experience writing and editing at newspapers in Utah and New Mexico. She graduated from BYU with a degree in journalism. She lives in Utah Valley with her husband, toddler and crazy dog.

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