Thanksgiving is a time of celebration. Don’t let it become a season of mourning

Tuesday , November 21, 2017 - 4:30 AM2 comments

STANDARD-EXAMINER EDITORIAL BOARD

Six people died on Utah roads over the Thanksgiving holiday in 2016.

Two died in 2015, three the year before that.

To find the last time no one died in a Utah traffic accident on Thanksgiving, you’ve got to go back to 2011.

The moral of the story — Thanksgiving weekend is a dangerous time on Utah roads, so adjust accordingly.

Over the last decade, only one holiday tallied a higher death toll than Thanksgiving in Utah, and that’s Independence Day, with 50. Between 2007 and 2016, 35 people died on state roads over Thanksgiving, according to the Utah Highway Safety Office.

People drive long distances over the holidays. They take unfamiliar roads. They step on the gas, trying to make good time. They get sleepy. Some drink and drive.

That’s true of every holiday. What sets Thanksgiving apart is the sheer volume of traffic. AAA estimates that about 51 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more to celebrate Thanksgiving this year, an increase of 1.6 million over 2016.

Utah will see additional traffic too, especially in the northern part of the state.

Utah Department of Transportation engineers expect a 25 percent increase in traffic Tuesday and Wednesday on Interstate 15 along the Wasatch Front, resulting in delays of up to 45 minutes during evening commutes.

During typical commutes, traffic on I-15 usually runs about 200,000 vehicles a day. Tuesday and Wednesday, it’s expected to jump by 25 percent.

Packing a quarter of a million tired and frustrated drivers onto Interstate 15 a day is a recipe for disaster. If you need to take I-15 Tuesday or Wednesday, heed UDOT’s advice and leave early in the day or later in the evening to avoid most of the congestion.

But travel won’t improve much on Friday, UDOT warns. A lot of Utah malls and shopping centers sit near freeway interchanges, which means cars could back up onto the highway, creating traffic jams.

If you’re driving near a shopping center this weekend, expect delays, UDOT advised in a Monday news release.

Thanksgiving is a time of celebration. Don’t let it become a season of mourning.

Drive carefully this weekend.

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