With the help of a group of seniors at Riverton High School, John Gleason with the Utah Department of Transportation and Sgt. Nick Street with Utah Highway Patrol issued a challenge to Utah drivers on Wednesday: turn the 100 deadliest days of summer into the 100 safest days.
Gleason pointed out it doesn’t make a lot of sense to have a higher number of fatalities in the summer months, when roads and skies are typically clear, as opposed to winter months. In winter, he said, people are simply paying more attention to the road, “white knuckling” and driving slower. Good road conditions lull people into a sense of false security and they take bigger risks.
“During the summer months, we’re seeing people more distracted,” he said. “The main difference is us ... and the decisions that we make.”
Traditionally, Gleason said, fatalities nearly double from the rest of the year during the summer months. Last year, during the 100 deadliest days, officials saw 103 fatalities — just over one death per day.
Ninety-four percent of accidents are caused by human error, according to Gleason, suggesting that 94% of accidents could be prevented. Street said most of these accidents could be prevented, barring “an act of God.”
“Besides a satellite falling from space or a rock falling from a mountain, it’s all behaviorally related,” Street said.
Street listed the top five reasons for fatal accidents: reckless driving, which includes excessive speed and aggressive behavior; buckling up — Street said almost 10% of drivers don’t; roadway departures caused by driving under the influence, drowsy or distracted driving; not watching out for pedestrians, and not watching out for motorcyclists.
Pedestrians and motorcyclists can take some responsibility, Street said, by making sure to wear reflective clothing. However, the majority of accident prevention still lies with drivers.
“Take those deep breaths, slow down on our roadways,” he said.
Compared to other states, such as Florida, Street said Utah is doing pretty good when it come to avoiding fatal accidents — but there is always room for improvement when zero fatalities is the goal. In comparison, however, Street said Utah does have less DUI-related fatal accidents.
The new blood alcohol limit in Utah, which lowered the limit from 0.08 to 0.05 and went into effect on at the end of last year, has also had a positive effect on lowering the number of DUI-related accidents, Street said. He said there was a decrease in impairment-related crashes in January, and February statistics are expected to show the same decline.
Besides behavior, there aren’t any other connecting factors to what causes these kinds of accidents. According to Street, based on experience, fatal accidents occur with drivers of any age. In the past 48 hours, he said, the last four fatalities involved victims ranging in age from their mid-20s to their 70s.
“It’s all of us that need to make a change,” Street said.
But, UDOT and UHP hope that reaching out to high school students and educating them will make a difference.
“If we can create these good habits from the get go, we can create safer roads,” Gleason said.
Learn more by visiting http://zerofatalitiesut.com/100-deadliest-days/.