Ogden police battle traffic fatality trends, speed racing
TIM VANDENACK, Standard-Examiner
OGDEN — Ogden police already knew that speeding, reckless driving and a high number of auto-pedestrian crashes were responsible for most traffic fatalities in the city, and they have various programs in place to combat the tragic trends.
“But we were kind of taken aback,” said Lt. Cameron Stiver, head of the Ogden Police Department’s Traffic Bureau, to learn that Ogden apparently had more traffic fatalities than any other Utah city over the most recent five years. “That was a surprise to us all as a police department.”
From 2017 through 2021, 48 people were killed in Ogden crashes, compared to 42 in Salt Lake City and 27 in Provo, according to Utah Highway Safety Office data. Stivers said Ogden officials haven’t made a business of tracking other cities’ numbers — they have been focusing on fatality reduction efforts locally that they know work.
“We know our numbers,” Stiver said. “We keep track of them” and address problem areas. “We know we had 14 one year (2020) and five another (2019).” There were 11 fatalities in 2021 and nine each in 2017 and 2018.
The toll of pedestrian fatalities is a key concern. Over the past 12 years, according to the state data, 33 pedestrians have been killed in Ogden, many while crossing Washington or Wall avenues. The most recent death occurred May 13 when a homeless man attempted to cross Washington after dark and not in a crosswalk. In similar conditions, a Weber State University police officer hit and killed a pedestrian on Washington on Sept. 30, 2021.
Source: Utah Highway Safety Office
City and state traffic engineers have helped address the dangers with more crosswalks, better lighting and lower speed limits, Stiver said. Pedestrians bear responsibility as well, he said, by sometimes crossing in unmarked areas.
“We are trying to educate people that you’ve got to pay attention and don’t always expect drivers to yield in a crosswalk,” he said. Meantime, a multi-jurisdictional crash investigation team in Weber County collects and shares information about high-problem areas and trends.
“We’ve used that to target certain areas, such as Washington Boulevard,” he said. For instance, police recently have been heavily enforcing the northern portion of Washington where speed racing has been common.
The Legislature this year increased fines for speed racing and toughened the penalty to a class A misdemeanor. Stiver said beyond the exhibition speeders, run-of-the-mill speeding has increased in the city, with some people driving 70 mph or more on a street with a 35 mph or 40 mph limit.
“We all need to do our part and take personal responsibility,” Stiver said. “We all need to be careful if we want to drop the number of fatalities.”
In a given year, about half of the traffic fatalities in Weber County happen in Ogden. But not always — in 2019, Ogden had five but other Weber cities had a combined 16.
On the state’s highways and interstates, similar crackdowns are occurring. Armed with a new state law that says going 105 mph or faster is an act of class B misdemeanor reckless driving, the Utah Highway Patrol is targeting the unfiltered high-speed motoring. The UHP says it has issued 12,000 citations since 2020 to drivers caught going faster than 100 mph.
“This is a serious thing” both on the highways and on city streets, Stiver said. “To me it shows that people don’t respect the laws anymore.”
One good trend in local traffic statistics, according to Stiver, is that the numbers of crashes overall and those with injuries have been dropping this year. He attributed some of that trend to enforcement and education programs.