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Caution ahead: The dangers of driving in Utah

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By SHEILA WANG • Standard-Examiner staff

Road crashes killed 272 people in Utah in 2017, a decline for the first time in the past five years, according to preliminary data from the Utah Department of Public Safety.

A recent study once again placed Utah drivers among the worst in the country.

QuoteWizard, an auto insurance comparison service, based the study on data of incidents including accidents, speeding tickets, DUIs, citations as well as fatalities, encompassing all 50 states plus the District of Columbia.

We wanted to find out if Utah drivers were indeed that bad and, secondly, how dangerous it was to drive on Utah roads.

Federal data shows it was actually far less deadly to drive in Utah than in most of the other states in the U.S.

Utah ranked 10th lowest death rates per 100 million vehicle miles traveled (VMT) across the country in 2016. Data for 2017 is unavailable. The rate stood at 0.89 per 100 million VMT, much lower than the national average, 1.18, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

Additionally, the traffic fatality rate in Utah declined by 74 percent over the past 40 years, while the average rate of the country only dropped by 65 percent in the same period of time.

The map above illustrates the fatalities and fatality rate of each state in the country in 2016. Hover or click on any state to compare.

Meanwhile, Utah’s fatal crashes last year went down for the first time since 2012.

Preliminary data shows 246 fatal crashes took place on Utah roads in 2017, 13 fewer than the previous year. But it is still higher than the five-year average (2012-2016).

A line chart above illustrates all fatal crashes and traffic deaths that have ever happened on Utah roads since 1970. They have both declined in general for the past four decades as the dotted trend lines show.

A dataset showing the numbers of major crash categories from 2008 to 2016 is attached below the line chart. It shows overall traffic crashes have grown substantially in recent years. In 2016, more than 62,000 crashes have occurred in Utah, up by 10 percent from 2008.

Crashes involving pedestrians, bicycles, drug and distraction have grown significantly over the years, while the ones involving speed and safety belts have declined.

Contact Reporter Sheila Wang at 801-625-4252 or swang@standard.net. Follow her on Facebook @JournalistSheilaW or on Twitter @SheilaWang7.

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