SALT LAKE CITY — It was just a normal day for 21-year-old Krystal Peterson — until suddenly, it wasn't. It's a day her father, Eric Rawles, will never forget.
"It's just a nightmare," he said. "Anytime one of your kids gets hurt, of course, you want to do whatever you can for them."
Peterson and her boyfriend were on their way to Salt Lake City on Saturday, Feb. 17 about 3:30 p.m., when she pulled out onto Highway 89 in Box Elder County. She was hit by a Dodge Ram pickup truck going about 60 mph.
“My wife looks over and goes, 'There's a really bad accident over there. There's two Life Flight helicopters,'" Rawles said.
Luckily, Peterson and her boyfriend survived the crash, crediting Peterson’s seat belt for saving both of them.
She was buckled up, but he was not. Rawles said when the police arrived, Peterson's boyfriend was on top of her after having been ejected from his seat upon the crash.
"When a passenger isn't seat belted in, they actually can become a projectile in the car and can hurt other people," Utah Highway Patrol Lt. Todd Royce explained.
In 2017, Royce reported there were 87 fatalities in Utah for failure to buckle up. He said it is the driver's job to make sure everyone has a seat belt on. Royce encourages the driver to simply request.
“Put your seat belt on. I'm not going to go unless your seat belt is on,” he said.
Royce explained that not buckling affects everyone in the car. Peterson suffered a concussion and major limb injuries as a result of the crash. After eight hours of surgery, she is finally recovering but now faces months of therapy.
Her boyfriend wishes he had buckled up. Rawles said, “He feels pretty bad about it.”
Rawles said if Peterson hadn't been wearing a seat belt, there would have been no way his daughter would have survived. According to Rawles, her injuries are proof enough. "She's got huge bruises on her where her seat belt hit her," he said.
In the state of Utah, about 89 percent of people buckle up, according to the Utah Department of Public Safety, but the remaining 11 percent are responsible for nearly half of Utah’s roadway deaths.