According to the Utah Highway Patrol (UHP), human error and human behavior are behind 90 plus percent of Utah highway fatalities. And those fatalities are on the rise.
Last year, 275 people died on Utah’s roadways, up from 256 in 2014 and 220 in 2013. That translates to a 7 percent rise in one year and a 25 percent rise over two years. Some explanations offered are population increases, lower gas prices resulting in more miles are being driven, and several mild winters in a row that result in people driving more during those winters. The UHP, however, says that the vast majority of fatalities are the result of drivers not wearing seat-belts, speeding too fast for conditions, driving while impaired, and distracted driving. The current trend is particularly frustrating for the UHP because it comes on the heels of a ten year decline in annual roadway fatalities between 2002 and 2012. During that period, annual fatalities fell from 329 to 217.
The Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) reports that the largest increase in fatalities has been pedestrian deaths. Most of those have occurred at intersections or crosswalks. As a result, UDOT has launched a “Heads Up” campaign urging drivers to keep an eye out for other motorists, motorcyclists, bikers and pedestrians. The goal is to educate drivers that even the slightest distraction, to text or dial a phone, to adjust the radio, to pick something up on a seat or on the floor, can result in a driver not seeing what might be right in front of them or what might be entering their path of travel. UDOT has long had a “Zero Fatalities” education program, which some have criticized for promoting a goal that is unattainable. While that may be the harsh reality of the automobile based society we live in, it certainly is the only acceptable goal. So why not pursue it to the extent we are able?