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'This is your warning': UHP tells motorists to buckle up

Utah Highway Patrol trooper Mark Bricker makes a stop on I-15 for a seat belt violation on May 21, 2012. Additional troopers will be on the roads during Thanksgiving travel as part of the annual Click It or Ticket campaign.

Utah Highway Patrol trooper Mark Bricker makes a stop on I-15 for a seat belt violation on May 21, 2012. Additional troopers will be on the roads during Thanksgiving travel as part of the annual Click It or Ticket campaign. (Ravell Call, Deseret News)



Estimated read time: 3-4 minutes

SALT LAKE CITY — When Utahns hit the road next week for the Thanksgiving weekend, the Utah Highway Patrol will be out watching for drivers who don't wear their seat belts.

"If you get pulled over, don't expect a warning. This is your warning," UHP Maj. Beau Mason said Thursday during the kickoff of its annual Click It or Ticket campaign.

Starting next Wednesday and running through Nov. 28, troopers will be conducting 300 extra enforcement shifts, focusing primarily on motorists who are not buckled up.

In an effort to drive home the importance of wearing a seat belt, Mario Landeros-Escobar was invited to tell his story about how bucking up recently saved his life.

On Oct. 8, Landeros-Escobar was driving his pickup on I-84 between Tremonton and Snowville during a heavy rainstorm, when he lost control of his truck. In dashcam video provided Wednesday by the UHP, Landeros-Escobar's pickup is seen going across the median before rolling four times and coming to stop, right side up, on the shoulder.

UHP trooper Ken Chugg happened to be driving in that area at that time and captured the incident on his dashboard camera. After the crash, Chugg is seen running from his patrol car to the wrecked pickup to assist.

"At that moment, you really don't know what you're going to find when you approach the vehicle," he recounted Thursday.

Moments later, Landeros-Escobar is seen walking away from his truck with Chugg.

"I was real excited to see Mario step out of that vehicle," the trooper said.

Landeros-Escobar said it was the first crash he had ever been in, and he was "very scared."

"Best thing is I have the seat belt on me, and that's what saved my life," he said. "I'm just so happy to wear the seat belt and stay alive."

After the crash, he said he started thinking about his family. He became a little emotional when he saw Chugg again on Thursday and thanked him for helping him that day.

Landeros-Escobar also encouraged others to wear their seat belts, noting that "things happen" when on the road.

So far in 2021 through Thursday, troopers have responded to 68 fatalities that were the result of motorists not wearing seat belts, Mason said. There have been 282 total fatal crashes on Utah's freeways this year as of Thursday, he said.

"Over the last five years, unrestrained fatalities account for a staggering 45% of total vehicle roadway deaths in Utah. Seat belts are the most effective traffic safety device by helping occupants stay in place, avoid becoming projectiles, and help drivers maintain control of the vehicle in a crash," the UHP stated.

Speed is another factor in many crashes, the major said, while also noting that the number of people going 100 mph or faster in the state is "out of control." As of Thursday, UHP troopers had stopped just under 4,000 vehicles for going 100 mph or faster in 2021. Mason said that's an average of 13 motorists a day being stopped for going at least 100 mph.

For the upcoming holiday weekend, Mason encouraged all drivers to slow down, leave for their trips early, plan ahead and take their time on the road, and wear a seat belt.

Since 2015, Utah has had a primary seat belt law, meaning a driver can be pulled over simply for not wearing a seat belt. Prior to 2015, a driver had to be pulled over for another offense first and then could receive a ticket for not buckling up.

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