SALT LAKE CITY — In an effort achieve the goal of Zero Crashes, Injuries and Fatalities, the Utah Department of Transportation unveiled a new reminder for state employees last week. The message isn’t new, but the placement is, and people are noticing (and hopefully remembering to buckle up).
Elevators at the State’s Calvin Rampton Complex in Salt Lake now remind employees and visitors to buckle up their seat belts to save their own lives as well as the lives of those riding with them.
“Convincing people to buckle up, not drive impaired, stop texting and stay awake while driving is no easy task,” said Zero Fatalities Program Manager Stacy Johnson. “These elevator doors grab your attention and, in a very creative way, encourage seat belt usage.”
Executive Director Carlos Braceras said while UDOT’s mission and goals touch a variety of topics, one item is more important than any.
“Nothing that we do is more important than safety,” Braceras said recently to employees. “Zero is our number one goal. Zero fatalities. Zero crashes. Zero injuries.”
Zero Fatalities’ seat belt statistics are eye-opening:
- Ninety-three percent of all crashes are due to driving behavior
- National traffic fatalities are the lowest they’ve been since 1958, but people who don’t buckle up represent more than half of those fatalities
- Unbuckled passengers can become a projectile, and increase the risk of hurting or killing others in the car by 40 percent
- People are 30 times more likely to be ejected from a vehicle during a crash
- 75 percent of people who are ejected during a crash die from their injuries
While road engineering and law enforcement help to decrease fatalities, education is an important part of the road to Zero Fatalities as well. The education comes in a number of ways:
School Assemblies and Events: With programs like Zero Fatalities, Don’t Drive Stupid, and Click it or Ticket targeting soon-to-be-drivers and their parents, over 500,000 people have been reached in the first five years. In 2014 alone, Zero Fatalities did approximately 214 presentations to schools around the Beehive State.
Commercial Public Service Announcements such as this one, which was originally shown during the 2014 Super Bowl.
Results: The number of traffic fatalities in Utah has dropped 22 percent since the Zero Fatalities program began in 2006. In the year 2000, Utah had 373 fatalities, but by the end of 2013, Utah had 221 fatalities. And awareness of the program is rising: public opinion research shows that 3 out of 4 Utahns (age 18 to 54) are aware of the Zero Fatalities message. Of course, awareness does not always translate to behavior modification, but of those who are aware of the Zero Fatalities message, an average of 51 percent admit that the Zero Fatalities program “definitely” or “probably” influenced them to avoid the five Zero Fatalities behaviors: driving drowsy, distracted, aggressive, impaired, or unbuckled.
Zero Fatalities program has also become a model for other states: Arizona, Iowa and Nevada have embraced the Zero Fatalities message and are running similar programs at varying levels. We’re happy that Utah’s Zero Fatalities program is the state’s contribution to the national and international visions to reduce traffic fatalities, and we wanted to make sure the message started at home as well.