State traffic fatalities dip from last year

Jul 21 2011 - 2:34pm

OGDEN -- Fewer people have died on Utah roads so far this year compared to 2010.

According to the Utah Department of Transportation, between January and June 2011, 91 fatalities have occurred statewide. During the same time period last year, 96 fatalities were reported statewide.

Since June, 12 more fatalities have been recorded statewide, bringing the total to 105 as of Thursday.

Nine of those were recorded in Weber County, six in Davis County, and three in Box Elder County.

With more people hitting the roads this holiday weekend, officials are urging drivers to be more patient and cautious because of the added traffic.

"Just be patient," said Tania Mashburn, public information officer for UDOT. "There will be extra traffic. Slow down, especially in construction zones. We want everyone to get to their destination safely."

Those who may be traveling this holiday weekend can go to udot.utah.gov and click the "Know When, Know Why" button to get a list of construction projects going on around the state to help them better plan their itineraries.

Utah Highway Patrol Sgt. Jimmy Higgs said more troopers will be out this weekend looking for those who are speeding, not wearing their seat belts, or may be driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

"July itself is the deadliest month of the whole year," he said. "More people are out and about for the holiday. There is a lot more traffic flow. Just watch your speed, drive safely, and wear your seat belt."

Mashburn said one of the most important things to remember when traveling, especially during the summer season when traffic fatalities increase significantly, is to buckle up their seat belts. The highest number of fatalities -- 33 this year -- have been due to improper restraint.

"I think the biggest thing people can do -- and it sounds so simple -- is just to buckle up," Mashburn said. "It's the biggest problem we are seeing, and it's such a simple thing. A lot of people aren't doing it, and it definitely saves lives."

Speed-related accidents were to blame for 24 fatalities this year, followed by 21 caused by impaired driving, five caused by distracted driving, and three were fatigue-related.

"Those are the five that most often come into play in fatal crashes," Mashburn said. "We ask everyone to be aware of their surroundings. Don't drive distracted, impaired, or aggressive, and follow the speed limit."

Traffic safety authorities report 38 fatalities have occurred so far this year in what they refer to as the "100 Deadliest Days of Summer," when significantly more fatalities are recorded from Memorial Day weekend to Labor Day weekend. The number of fatalities during the deadliest days are exactly the same as last year heading into the Pioneer Day holiday. Last year, three fatalities occurred over the July 24th weekend.

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