SALT LAKE CITY — New statistics released Tuesday by the Utah Department of Transportation and Zero Fatalities name improper restraint as the most common factor that contributed to deaths on Utah roadways in 2013.
“Seat belts are the single most effective traffic safety device for preventing death and injury,” according to a posting on the Zero Fatalities website.
One Oakley teenager is putting a face to the painful statistic.
On April 23, 2012, Malone Sheeran was driving home from work when she suddenly lost control of her SUV, causing the car to roll.
“We were sitting at home on the couch just talking, me and my parents, and they got a call that she was in an accident,” said Sheeran’s twin sister, Mason.
Now, 18 years old, Sheeran can recall the night vividly, especially the hours that followed.
“She was ejected because she wasn’t wearing her seat belt,” Sheeran said. “And she couldn’t survive the injuries. For whatever reason, that one time she wasn’t wearing it, and it was that one time that really mattered.”
Malone Sheeran has now become a part of troubling new figures UDOT hopes to soon see change.
“Almost half of the people that died in Utah probably didn’t have to die if they were just wearing their seat belts,” said executive director, Carlos Braceras.
According to new figures released by UDOT, 46.7 percent of traffic fatalities in Utah last year occurred because those victims were not wearing seat belts. Fatalities that occurred in pedestrian, bicyclist and motorcyclist crashes did not factor into that statistic.
“There were 152 people that lost their lives in cars,” Braceras said. “So, that’s the cases where you can wear seat belts. And of those, 71 of those people were not wearing seat belts.”
The data means more than just numbers to Sheeran. They are a constant reminder of a day she will never be able to forget.
“It will really change everyone that you know. It’s going to change their lives,” Sheeran said. “And it’s going to hurt. And it’s not going to get better. And so that’s why it’s so important and so worth it just to put your seat belt on, no matter what.”
Other driving behaviors that resulted in fatalities include aggressive driving, impaired driving, drowsy driving and distracted driving.
“Safety on our roads is everyone’s responsibility. There are a lot of things you can do to prevent death or serious injury in the event of a car crash,” Braceras said. “The simplest thing is to wear your seat belt. People who aren’t properly buckled are 40 times more likely to die in a car crash. Buckle up. If not for your sake, do it for those who love you.”
Preliminary statistics from Zero Fatalities show 219 people died on Utah’s roads last year and nearly two-thirds of those victims were male.
The number of fatalities on Utah roadways increased slightly in 2013 compared to 2012. In 2012, there were 217 fatalities on Utah roads – the lowest number since 1959.