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Seat belt use ticks up in annual Utah survey

Seat belt use ticks up in annual Utah survey

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — If you're a woman in a van in Summit County, odds are good that you're following the state seat belt law. If you're a man in a truck in Carbon County, the odds are quite a bit lower.

Those profiles are among the findings of the Utah Department of Public Safety's annual seat belt observational study, which aims to see how often people strap in when they start their engines.

"It's very important," Utah Highway Patrol Sgt. Todd Royce said about buckling up. "From the fatal statistics we've got, in over 50 percent of the fatalities in Utah, the occupant or driver is unrestrained."

The survey, conducted in June, says 82.4 percent of Utah vehicle occupants were wearing seat belts, a slight uptick from the 81.9 percent in the 2012 survey.

In rural counties, 70 percent of people in vehicles were restrained, while nearly 86 percent of those in urban areas wore seat belts. Summit County had the most people buckling up, at 94 percent, while Carbon County had the fewest, at 52.5 percent.

Nearly 87 percent of women were buckled up, while about 79 percent of men put on their seat belts.

"The experience is that men are a little bit more of risk-takers," Royce said.

The survey found people in vans were most likely to wear their seat belts, at nearly 87 percent. People in trucks buckled up in about 71 percent of cases.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration requires states to complete a survey each year. This year's survey took place in 17 Utah counties and involved more than 20,000 vehicles.

The methodology of the survey changed in 2012 to include rural counties; previously, it only included urban areas.

Utah has a "secondary violation" law, which allows police to cite people for a seat belt violation only if they're stopped for another offense first.

Troopers said they'd like to see that law strengthened.

"We're generally in favor of a primary seat belt law just because we know it just saves lives," Royce said.

(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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Michelle Rindels

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