SALT LAKE CITY — A Utah lawmaker is hoping this is the year his legislative colleagues will pass a law making not wearing a seat belt a primary driving offense.

Rep. Lee Perry, R-Perry, has tried to push primary seat belt laws on Utah’s Capitol Hill before but has had no success. Yet this year's attempt to pass HB79, he said Monday, is personal, motivated by the death of a family friend’s child and another teen in a rollover accident.

Neither Tyler Stuart nor Mandi Brown, who were both 16, was wearing a seat belt in the June 28, 2013, crash in Tremonton that also left the 18-year-old driver paralyzed.

Mandi’s mother, Melissa Brown, urged Perry last fall to sponsor a bill.

“I’m passionate about it anyway, but I couldn’t tell them no after seeing what I saw,” Perry said.

While state law currently makes not wearing a seat belt a primary offense for drivers and passengers under the age of 19, it is a secondary offense for other adults — meaning those drivers have to be stopped first for another violation.

Perry referenced statistics that show 80 percent of Utahns wear their seat belts. He said he believes a primary seat belt law would bring Utah’s numbers closer to other states that have the law in place — about 10 percent to 12 percent higher.

He believes 35 to 40 lives could be saved each year in Utah with a primary seat belt law.

Though her daughter was 16 at the time of her death, Brown said she believes a primary seat belt law would have made a difference in the teen’s case.

“If it would have been a primary law, they would have had their belts on that day,” sh said. “Highway Patrol could have pulled them over and given them a ticket.”

Brown believes her daughter’s crash would have been survivable with a seat belt. Instead, Mandi was in a coma for days before she died.

“I just cried,” Brown recalled. “It was like (she) was not my daughter. She was so swollen, she was so bruised, she was cut.”

Brown said she used to enjoy taking pictures and putting up a Christmas tree each year. But since her daughter's death, she seldom takes photos, nor has she put up a Christmas tree. The crash, she said, has also had a ripple effect with Mandi’s friends and the surrounding community.

Brown hopes lawmakers will approve a primary seat belt law this year.

“I just really want to see it get passed so it can save lives and prevent people from going through what we go through every single day,” she said. “It’s hard.”

Email: aadams@deseretnews.com