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Passengers without seat belt may become projectiles, experts warn

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SALT LAKE CITY — One common excuses for not wearing a seatbelt is that it's uncomfortable and cramps a person's freedom of choice.

However, those who think their choice not to wear one won't hurt anyone else may need to think again. When someone doesn't buckle-up they can run the risk of being ejected from their seat and hitting someone else riding with them.

Lt. Lee Perry of the Utah Highway Patrol said he knows what happens when an unbelted driver or passenger becomes a deadly projectile in the car.

Perry has kept photos of the first fatality accident he responded to for 21 years. It was an Easter weekend in 1992 when a driver was having trouble breathing. He said he was amazed the girl was hurt so badly because the car had been broadsided on the passenger side.

"We cut the seatbelt off of her and when we did, her body came forward and we discovered her brother who wasn't wearing a seatbelt, who had been a passenger in the car, was lodged behind her body," Perry said.

The girl's neck and back were battered by her brother's body, he said.

"Because he wasn't wearing a seatbelt he became a missile," Perry said.

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The boy died on scene and the girl died at the hospital, he said.

"(It's a) tough situation where parents lose two children in one crash because one of them chose not to wear a seatbelt," Perry said.

Perry said he keeps the photos to show how important it is that everyone wears a seatbelt.

"Everybody in that car is impacted by your choice," Perry said.

When a car crashes, a person's body, their pet or any other lose objects keep moving until they bang against the inside of the car or are ejected.

"If you think you can hold yourself in a crash there's no way," said Stacy Johnson of Zero Fatalities.

People should also consider the things they are holding. "Even if you're carrying a ten pound baby going 30 miles per hour, that baby becomes 300 pounds," she said. "You can't hold that baby back."

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Jed Boal

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