CENTERVILLE — Utah Highway Patrol troopers suspect mechanical failure played a role in a crash that killed a 24-year-old Brigham City man and kept Thursday morning’s commuters at a crawl on Interstate 15.
Nickalaus Renteria was driving a 2000 Ford Taurus north at low speed with his emergency flashers on when a box truck hit the Taurus from behind, UHP troopers said.
The impact pushed the Taurus into a dump truck in front of it, crushing the Taurus between the two trucks, said UHP Lt. Ed Michaud.
Renteria was killed on impact, he said.
The accident occurred at 6:01 a.m. just north of Mile Marker 321 in Centerville, Michaud said.
He said investigators are trying to determine why the Taurus was traveling so slowly and believe mechanical failure of some kind may be to blame.
According to a news release issued Thursday afternoon, Renteria was not wearing a seat belt.
Renteria’s death was the third traffic-related fatality in four days in the Top of Utah.
The first fatality was Monday, when an 85-year-old man was hit by a truck while crossing Main Street in Sunset.
The second was Tuesday, when Brandon P. Phillips, 25, of Brigham City, was killed on Interstate 15 in the Willard area after he hit the back of a semitrailer.
Thursday’s fatality happened the same day the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration issued a report that traffic deaths nationwide increased dramatically in the first half of 2012 after six years of decline.
This is the third fatality in Northern Utah in a week, but Utah is not following the national trend of increased fatalities, officials said.
As of Sept. 30, there were 146 fatalities, including auto-pedestrian accidents, in Utah compared with 182 fatalities in the same time period in 2011, said Gary Mower, research analyst with the Utah Highway Safety Office.
Cynthia Harris, spokeswoman for AAA Utah, said Utah’s fewer fatalities is “an interesting phenomenon” when compared to other areas of the country where fatalities are increasing.
Harris said an extensive education program, along with awareness campaigns, could be contributing to the decrease in fatalities in the state.
But drivers should not become complacent, because distracted driving is still the No. 1 cause of accidents, including fatalities.
Drivers need to turn off iPads, iPhones, smartphones and anything that will distract them.
“If it takes your eyes off the road or your hands off the wheel, don’t do it,” Harris said.
She also said there is an increase in drowsy driving across the country.
Drivers between ages 16 and 24 are twice as likely to be involved in a drowsy-driving accident than drivers between ages 40 and 49, Harris said.
After Thursday’s accident in Centerville, officials had to close I-15’s No. 3 and No. 4 lanes for several hours while investigating the accident, Michaud said.
Lanes 1 and 2 also were closed several times so investigators could determine where the impact took place.
It did not appear that alcohol or drugs were a factor in the accident.
The driver of the box truck, Eduardo Vasquez, of Salt Lake City, was taken by ambulance to Lakeview Hospital in Bountiful to be treated for injuries, according to the news release.
The dump truck driver was not injured.