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Capitol Hill focuses on road safety bills

By Richard Piatt | Posted - Feb 11th, 2014 @ 7:02pm

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SALT LAKE CITY — Utah lawmakers are focused on safety on the state's roadways and several bills are getting a hearing on Capitol Hill.

This session lawmakers seem eager to allow people to go 80 mph on more roads, but there was reluctance to pass a mandatory seatbelt law.

In fact, late Tuesday afternoon, a bill requiring seatbelt use at speeds over 55 mph died in a committee. It would have been a way of easing Utah into an overall mandatory seat belt law, which many states already have.

Ralph Tree’s daughter, Kristina, wasn’t wearing a seatbelt when she died in a car accident after being thrown from the vehicle So for him, a seatbelt law is a no-brainer.

“I think it boiled down to that one difference,” Tree said. “I mean, if she would have just stayed in the vehicle, that’s all it took. She probably would have been OK with just a lap belt.

Statistics overwhelming show that seat belts save lives. Yet Senator Luz Robles, D-Salt Lake City, anticipated a fight to pass her bill, even though it would have made belts mandatory only on high-speed roads.

“Because we’re also moving toward 80 mph, you know we drive really fast, maybe 10, 15, 20 years ago it wasn’t as necessary as it is right now,” Robles said. “And the vast majority of people already know it’s the law.”

But several other bills introduced this session focus on safety. Lawmakers are especially dealing with impairment on the roadways.

For people stopped for DUI, a bill is expected to pass that would require interlock devices on all the defendant's vehicles and 240 hours of rehab.

So is a bill that would address drowsy driving, which creates penalties after an accident occurs.

“Right now there really is no ability to cite anyone for drowsy driving post accident,” said Senator Aaron Osmond, R-South Jordan.


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