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The Utah Highway Safety Office’s Together For Life rural seat belt project is relaunching its website. The tool includes information and resources for nine rural counties and new guidance for having the sometimes tricky conversation about asking someone to wear their seat belt.

“We all want our loved ones and those we care about to arrive home safely. We can lead by example by wearing our seat belt, and asking people we care about and anyone riding in our vehicles to buckle up. It’s never too late to start a good habit,” said Keri Fuhr, the State’s Occupant Protection Program Manager.

According to the CDC, motor vehicle crashes are a leading cause of death in the United States. Over one-third of passenger vehicle occupants killed are unrestrained, and seat belt use is generally lower in rural areas than in urban areas.

The Together for Life project began in 2013 when the Utah Highway Safety Office focused efforts to reduce significant disparities in seat belt use rates between Utah’s urban areas where rates were at about 85%, and rural area rates as low as 55%. Since then, seat belt use increased by an average of 20% in the nine focus counties compared to 7% in urban counties.

Additionally, the numbers of unrestrained fatalities and serious injuries in these rural counties were also lower. Statewide, 61 fatalities were unrestrained in 2020. The statewide seat belt use rate has climbed to 90.2% (2019).

The multi-year Together for Life project initially focused on three rural Utah counties (Box Elder, San Juan, and Sanpete), and has expanded to include Cache, Carbon, Iron, Sevier, Uintah, and Tooele.

The updated website has resources specifically for the nine project counties including tools, radio spots, and videos that can help all Utah residents start the conversation with their loved ones to promote seat belt use. These tools guide key leaders and families in the development of workplace policies and family rules for seat belt use on every ride.

“Every person plays a role in helping keep one another safe. Our research shows that most Utah adults want the people they care about to always buckle up. Often, the key is figuring out what to say to ask them. This website provides the words to say and tips to Connect, Ask, and Reconnect before you start your ride,” Fuhr said. For more information about the Together for Life project, visit TogetherForLifeUtah.org. For statewide seatbelt resources, also visit ClickIt.utah.gov.

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