By Will Glade
Capital West News
SALT LAKE CITY — After much debate, the Utah House of Representatives narrowly passed Rep. Lee Perry’s, R-Perry, seat belt amendments.
HB79, the Safety Belt Law Amendments, was brought to the floor of the house for a vote to determine whether Perry’s bill would inch closer to becoming a law. The bill passed 41-32.
During the debate, democrats and republicans alike discussed either their support or their opposition to the bill.
“I have a 21-year-old daughter and I want to send a message to her and her friends anytime I can to buckle up,” said Rep. Scott Sandall, R-Tremonton, “That is a perspective, as a father, I want to portray.”
The bill, in its current form, would only allow officers to issue a citation if the offender had previously received a warning from law enforcement. Those who receive tickets would also be able to obtain a fee waiver for the $45 ticket if they complete a free online course about the importance of seat belts.
“We need to consider beyond our rights, and think of the rights of others,” Rep. Douglas Sagers, R-Toole, said in support of HB79. Sagers then referenced the idea that an individual’s rights end when they begin to infringe on another individual’s right.
According to Perry, Utah has a 83 percent seat belt-usage rate, which means that at any given time 83 percent of Utah drivers are wearing their seat belts. Perry also stated that 50 percent of the fatal motor vehicle accidents in Utah are due to people not wearing their seat belts.
During the floor reading, Rep. Fred Cox, R-West Valley, asked Perry about seat belt education during driver’s education classes.
“When I was 16, and I was taking drivers ed., we had the opportunity of seeing lots of very gruesome photos of crashes. I was wondering if we still had that policy here in Utah—and that was over 30 years ago and I still obviously remember that. Instead of changing the law, perhaps we need to change our education in that area,” said Cox.
Rep. Keven Stratton, R-Orem, agreed. “I think that we would do ourselves much better by putting resources and an effort behind education and not feel like we have solved the problem by passing a bill, that in my opinion, doesn’t need to be passed.”
Also speaking in opposition to the bill was Rep. Daniel McCay, R-Riverton. “It is interesting,” he said, “We have all heard the phrase many, many times: those who would trade a little bit of liberty for a little bit of safety deserve neither. And what I love is, each one of our colleagues who has spoken in favor of this bill says, or something to this akin, ‘I am usually in favor of liberty, but… I’m in favor of this, but… I’m in favor of that, but….’ Colleagues, it’s time for us to get our buts out of the way of people.”
Beyond the issues of education and personal liberties, some lawmakers seemed more concerned with the economic impact of the bill.
Rep. Don Ipson, R-St. George, a businessman himself, said, “We talked about workers comp, and it is critical that we do all we can to bring those cost down for businesses; and this is one way that we can do it. I fully support this bill.”
Perry claims that passing this bill will save the state of Utah millions of dollars because of resources saved due to the decrease in fatal accidents that would take place.
HB79 will now move to the Senate floor for further consideration.