FARMINGTON — The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic put a halt to many travel plans over the past year.
But with positive cases of the virus dropping and thousands of vaccines being administered every day, transportation officials are gearing up for a mass return to the roads this spring break season.
And they’re warning motorists to be prepared.
Utah Department of Transportation spokesperson John Gleason said drivers should plan ahead for possible heavy traffic along Interstate 15 beginning as early as this Friday as spring break starts for several Wasatch Front school districts. Gleason said delays of up to 15 minutes are expected on both directions of I-15 in Salt Lake County, and on southbound I-15 in Davis County.
Gleason said UDOT traffic engineers expect that delays will be heaviest on the freeway in Salt Lake County, going both directions, from 2-9 p.m. Friday and in Davis County, going southbound, from 4-7 p.m. While not as significant as the previously mentioned spots, Gleason said engineers figure northbound I-15 will also be backed up from 2-7 p.m. Friday.
In the northern reaches of the state, spring break is slated to begin next week, starting Monday, for Morgan, Box Elder and Davis school districts. The Weber and Ogden school districts will take their breaks the following week, beginning April 5. So the freeway figures to be busy again next weekend as spring breakers will likely be heading home and heading out simultaneously.
In addition to warning of potential traffic jams, UDOT is also reminding drivers to stay alert, put away distractions, and focus on the road while traveling. Despite fewer overall vehicles on the during during the past year due to COVID-19-driven travel inactivity, Utah has seen a surge in traffic fatalities.
According to preliminary estimates, Utah traffic fatalities increased by 11%, to a total of 276 deaths, in 2020, despite of the amount of cars on the road decreasing by 13%. And the troubling issue hasn’t gotten any better in 2021. As of March 15, 47 people had died on Utah’s roads so far this year. Last year, through the end of March, there were 46 traffic fatalities in Utah.
“With more people traveling for spring break, it is especially important that drivers pay attention and be safe behind the wheel,” Gleason said. “Choosing to make one small change, such as putting a phone in ‘do not disturb’ mode, can make a big difference in saving lives on Utah highways.”
Gleason said other potential travel spots where heavier traffic is expected this weekend include U.S. 191 in Moab, U.S. 6 in Spanish Fork Canyon and I-15 in St. George. Vehicles wider than 12 feet are restricted on I-15 near Beaver and U.S. 191 in Moab.