December 21st, 2010


8 Comments, Uncategorized, by Catherine Higgins.

This post is third in a series about safe driving practices for teens and the Zero Fatalities campaign’s four areas of focus: drowsy, distracted, aggressive driving and not buckling up. Click these links to read the first and second posts.

Dear mom and dad: You may drive a mini-van, wear mom jeans or listen to Lawrence Welk, but when it comes to protecting your kids against underage alcohol use, you can still be totally cool.

This door mat tells parents how NOT to be a door mat: deter underage alcohol use by using proven parenting skills.

MADD President Art Brown tells parents how to keep kids away from alcohol. (Click to enlarge), a prevention effort aimed at eliminating underage alcohol use, touts an interesting fact on their website: teens really do listen and care about what parents think– great news when it comes to keeping kids safe.

Kids should never drink and drive, but many do. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s data from 2008, 31 percent of teens involved in crashes were impaired. Talking to your kids about safety measures needs to include strong messages about staying away from alcohol and other drugs.

While public safety is one huge concern when it comes to kids, new scientific discoveries show alarming evidence that goes beyond drinking and driving; underage drinking can permanently harm a young person’s developing brain. Teens are at much greater risk than adults for addiction and other serious problems.

As an outreach effort to parents and other adults who care about kids, kicked off a seasonal safety campaign Monday at a local Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control Outlet with some great visual reminders for shoppers. Giant cut-outs of teens greet customers at the door and inside the store.

The images of teens look lighthearted at first, but each cut-out is paired with a serious message based on recent scientific studies that show how dangerous alcohol is for young people.

A life size cutout of a teen girl peers inside the DABC store in Holaday, Utah. She bears this reminder to shoppers: "Getting alcohol is hard for kids. Don't make it easier."

“Alcohol is not benign to kids,” says Art Brown, Utah’s leader of Mothers Against Drunk Driving.  Art points out that the teen brain is still developing and susceptible to damage from alcohol use. Brown and offer some great advice:

1. Stay close. Kids who have a close, loving relationship with parents are more likely to stay alcohol free.

2. Set clear rules and expectations. Tell your kids about the dangers of alcohol use and make sure they know the household rules. And, have that talk early — by age 11 or 12 at least. Kids start drinking much earlier than you think.

3. Monitor your kids. Keeping track of your kids has been shown to deter early alcohol use.

4. Never, never give alcohol to anyone under age 21. The DABC store is a great place spread the word since “20 to 25 percent of kids get alcohol from adults,” says Brown.

“Quit giving alcohol to kids!” Giving alcohol to kids is against the law and invites dangerous health and safety consequences.

The website is packed full of good information and resources for parents. NHTSA has a good site too.

December 15th, 2010


1 Comment, Uncategorized, by Catherine Higgins.

This post is second in a series about safe driving practices for teens and the Zero Fatalities campaigns four areas of focus: drowsy, distracted, aggressive driving and not buckling up. See the first post here.


More teens die in car crashes that from any other cause. This video shares stories told by Utah parents after the tragic loss of their teenage children.

To teens, driving provides access to greater freedom. As parents, we need to make sure that freedom comes with greater responsibility. One way to stress that responsibility is to use a safe driving contract.

Sign on the dotted line

Talk to your teen about safe driving. Putting the rules in black and white clarifies safe driving rules and expectations. The Center for Disease Control has an online form you can download and print in Spanish or English.

Or, make your own contract with your teen. Participating with a young driver to develop a list of expectations may create better buy-in.

Besides contracts, the CDC’s Parents are the Key website has lots of good tips on Keeping driving kids safe. Click on the button, right, to check it out.

Safe driving, front and center

Here are some suggestions about starting a safe driving conversation and keeping the dialog going:

1. Talk early and often. “Parents need to talk to their children about safe driving before they even get behind the wheel,” says Jenny Johnson, Health Program Specialist with the Utah Health Department.”They can start by setting a good example for their children by driving safe themselves.”

The National Safe Kids Coalition has a new program called Countdown 2: Drive that advocates a passenger safety contract to acclimate kids age 13 to 15 about vehicle safety before learning to drive.

“By openly discussing expectations about driving, parents show their children how much they care about them and their decisions,” Says Johnson.

2. Be an example. Do you text and drive? If so, shame on you! Same goes for impaired and unbuckled driving. Show your kids safe practices.

3. Display the contract. Is your fridge a place of honor where good grades or family photos get posted? Use the fridge or a similar space to display the signed driving contract. Make a mini contract that can be attached to the dashboard, a key chain or carried in a wallet.

4. Quality time. Utah’s licensing requirements mandate that teens spend 40 hours on the road with a licensed driver. “Inexperience behind the wheel is often a factor in teen motor vehicle crashes,” says Helen Knipe, Highway Safety Program Specialist with the Utah Department of Public Safety. “By practicing with your teen, you can help them learn the rules of the road and get as much experience as possible.”

The good news

Fatality rates in Utah have declined by 24 percent over the past seven years due in part to efforts by state agencies to improve roads, educate the public, enforce laws and coordinate and plan for safety.

However, action taken by state agencies can’t make up for bad choices made by individuals. Every person behind the wheel has a responsibility to themselves and others to drive safely.

For more information about safe driving practices visit the Zero Fatalities website.

December 13th, 2010


3 Comments, Uncategorized, by Catherine Higgins.

Kitty Wright loves the sounds of the season, so she invites young performers from schools and community groups to stop at the Calvin Rampton Complex Atrium to sing and play.

Trooper Dan Huber a.k.a. "Santa Baby" gets asked for expensive gifts like jewelry and cars

Kitty Wright

State employees have been treated to performances by children and teens during the last two weeks thanks to the work of Kitty Wright, long time employee and customer service expert at UDOT.

Kitty used to work at the Utah State Capitol building where performing groups visit during the holiday season. When her job location changed, she brought the idea with her.

“I used to send out invitations about mid-October, but after so many years doing this, the directors call me,” says Kitty.

The violinists all had great posture and playing technique. Not a sour note was heard!

The Calvin Rampton Complex works well for performers since the center of the building is an atrium that is open on each floor. Employees on break can watch from above and others can listen from work areas since the sound carries through the building.

Balcony patrons view the events from on high

To the performers, the floor levels above look balconies in a theater. ”They feel like they’re performing in an opera,” says Kitty.

“These young people are so talented and willing to perform their best numbers, and all for a smile and a clap of hands.  The employees really look forward to each performance.”

Those of us who enjoyed the performances are grateful for Kitty’s efforts!

Students from St. George acted out the Twelve days of Christmas with a partridge in a pear tree.

December 7th, 2010


2 Comments, Uncategorized, by Catherine Higgins.

“Too many young people are driving without their seat belts, under the influence, or with cell phones in hand,” says National Highway Traffic Safety Administrator David Strickland.

He has the numbers to back up the statement: ”16-to-20-year olds are twice as likely to be killed in a crash involving alcohol, two and a half times more likely to die while driving or riding unbuckled, and three times as likely as the average American to die in a speed-related crash.” Strickland presented the information in recent Fast Lane blog post.

Utah citizens have been touched by tragedy recently — just check the news to see stories about teen drivers involved in serious or fatal crashes. Parents of teens, teachers and teen drivers need to find ways to encourage teens to make safe driving choices and citizens need to support effective public policy changes.

NHTSA advocates a “a diversified safety approach that supports good laws, strong enforcement, education, and parental involvement to reduce the number of young driver fatalities on our roadways.”

The State of Utah is following suit with its own programs. Zero Fatalities is actively involved in teaching the dangers of inattentive driving in Utah schools with presentations in drivers education classes. The presentations address four areas: drowsy, distracted, impaired, and aggressive driving and not buckling up.

Now through January 1, one blog post per week with emphasize safe driving. Check back to read tips and get resources for helping the teens in your life make safe driving choices.

December 7th, 2010


8 Comments, Uncategorized, by Catherine Higgins.

Some cattle in southern Utah’s open range area are sporting an accessory that helps motorists avoid cow vs. car crashes — reflective ear tags.

Reflective tags help motorists see cattle

Motorists who drive through open range area often need to slow or stop for cattle crossing the road. In the daytime, the big bovines are easy to spot. At night, it’s more likely that a Lexus will hit a longhorn.

Three Station Supervisors in UDOT Region Four have taken initiative to reduce cow hits by giving cowboys scrapped or expired reflective material to attach to ear tags on cattle. This high praise came from Utah Highway Patrol Officer Rick Eldredge, in an email thanking the three supervisors:

“Over the last couple of years our cow versus car accidents have been greatly reduced on our ‘Open Range Highways’ in San Juan County. I want to tell you how thankful myself and the citizens that travel these highways are to your UDOT supervisors in Monticello, Blanding and Bluff.”

“Chet Johnson, David Laws and Lee Meyers are more than willing to assist the UHP and local ranchers in saving lives and property…This has decreased the number of cow strikes dramatically.Your district supervisors have played a huge role in making this possible. They are truly on board with the State’s mission of ‘Zero Fatalities’”

December 1st, 2010


6 Comments, Uncategorized, by Catherine Higgins.

Quick work done by UDOT employees saved millions of project dollars and gave Utah taxpayers an extra transportation bang for the buck.

Crews are hard at work on I-215 near 3500 South

One-time funding, unusual economic circumstances and the option to take advantage of additional federal money converged to create a triple challenge for UDOT Project Development employees: work fast and efficiently to obligate project dollars or miss out on an ideal bidding environment and additional funding opportunities.

Employees met the challenge head on, and Utah’s road users will see the benefit.

Onetime funding: The ARRA program was almost double to UDOT’s regular annual federal program, however no additional staff or resources were used or even available to assist in the additional workload.  Additional transparency requirements also added to the workload.

The $213 million in ARRA was first made available in February of 2009 but the projects required an expedited delivery schedule in order to use the funding. The UDOT teams selected, programmed, designed and advertised these projects exceeding the required schedule.

The transparency requirements included monitoring each project at a level not yet experienced at UDOT but the effort ensured accountability as well as increased visibility in government spending.

Economic conditions: UDOT estimates bid prices well in advance of construction. Lower levels of inflation and unpredictably low bid prices for construction contracts meant that fund were balances left on projects. To be used efficiently, these funds were obligated quickly onto additional projects helping meet programming needs and allowing projects to be programmed earlier then were originally anticipated.

Program Finance pro-actively provided information to Project Development and Region Project Management in order to effectively obligate these funds resulting in $100 million  additional projects being delivered.

Additional federal distribution: Not all states are as efficient as UDOT. Those states that don’t obligate funds as required by the federal government forfeit money to states that do.  To ensure UDOT met its obligation requirements, Project Development Team members developed a specific obligation performance measure that allowed the team and others to monitor the obligation progress and goal.

This action ensured that UDOT qualified for the redistributed funding to the tune of almost $13 million which would have been lost without the collaborative efforts of this team.

November 30th, 2010


6 Comments, Uncategorized, by Catherine Higgins.

Many people still don’t take conditions into account when driving in ice and snow.

With two storms past and more on the way as the season progresses, drivers need to be prepared for winter weather.

Slow down

“Driving slowly in snowy weather, or cold and icy conditions is probably the best advice,” says Derek Miller, Program Specialist with the Highway Safety office in the Department of Public Safety.

Driving too fast caused the tragic loss of a single mother of three young boys on Sunday.

Video Courtesy of

Derek Miller checks wiper blades for wear

Buy your car a present

Derek also suggests preparing your car. “Things like worn wiper blades and tires may be overlooked to save a couple dollars.” Drivers may be scrimping on the family car to buy gifts during the holiday season .  ”But it’s not worth it.”

All systems should be working too.  ”Also the heater (defroster) and rear-window defogger should work well. Washer fluid tanks should be maintained and kept full of ‘winter’ anti-freeze washer fluid.”

CommuterLink — it’s not just a great place to check traffic conditions

For more information, including how to prepare your car and how to stay safe around snow plows, visit the CommuterLink website for a list of tips to help drivers navigate through snow and ice.

November 30th, 2010


12 Comments, Uncategorized, by Catherine Higgins.

UDOT’s Tie Fork Rest Area is the People’s Choice in the American Institute of Architects annual recognition of beautiful buildings.

Tie Fork

With over 400 votes, Tie Fork won in an online competition hosted by the Salt Lake Tribune that let readers vote for their favorite building.

Thanks all who voted for Tie Fork!

For more information about the building, see two previous blog posts, one about online voting and one about the community effort behind the project.

KSL coverd the story about the award too:

Video Courtesy of

November 29th, 2010


No Comments, Uncategorized, by Catherine Higgins.

Ramp metering has been used during commute times for years, but not all drivers understand why traffic flow is helped when cars stop before getting on the freeway.

Cars stop at 500 South in Davis County, Utah

To non engineers, the concept seems counter-intuitive…UDOT helps traffic mobility by making cars stop briefly before getting on the freeway?

Metering works by breaking up bottlenecks, smoothing out surges and diverting some traffic to other ramps or nearby arterials. In other words, it keeps traffic on an even keel.

In a recent metering study done in the Minneapolis-St. Paul region, the most significant benefit was shown to be travel reliability. Traffic engineers Mark Taylor and John Haigwood explained the results of the study at UDOT’s Engineering Conference.

Some Minnesota law makers decided that ramp metering should be discontinued because of perceived public discontent. The situation provided a good chance to conduct a before and after study of metering.

Reliability is the measure of the expected range of travel times allowing for crashes or excessive congestion. The Minnesota study showed a 91 percent decline in reliability.

Freeway speeds were also much slower. And, traffic volumes were reduced, probably as a result of declined efficiency. ”It was not very long before the public said ‘turn the meters back on,’” said Taylor.

John Haigwood

The study also showed that metering improves safety. Haigwood explained:

– Stop and go driving behavior is reduced, resulting in fewer rear-end collisions.

– Platoons are broken up, resulting in fewer side-swipe collisions.

Metering worked in Minnesota, and it works along the Wasatch Front, too. ”We hear about it when they go off,” says Haigwood. UDOT has studied data to evaluate metering, but has not done a complete before-after study resembling Minnesota’s.

UDOT engineers continually evaluate ramp metering to make sure that commuters see a benefit. “We are trying to help the public the best we can,” said Haigwood.

November 23rd, 2010


6 Comments, Uncategorized, by Catherine Higgins.

An AirMed helicopter needed a lift after a wind gust caused a tailspin.

From UDOT Region One’s man on the street, the one and only Vic Saunders:

An injured rotor grounded an AirMed helicopter on Monday.

On Monday, November 22, an AirMed helicopter from a Salt Lake City hospital responding to a run-off-the-road crash on westbound I-84 near Riverdale, got a big surprise when, just as it landed, a wind gust blew its tail rotor into a roadside delineator post. That collision shattered the carbon-fiber tail rotor and instantly grounded the helicopter, sending the crash victim it was to transport to Salt Lake to an Ogden hospital by ambulance instead.

Meanwhile, a flat-bed semi truck and crane were dispatched on Tuesday, November 23, to transport the chopper from the scene back to a repair facility in Salt Lake.

A crane and flatbed truck were dispatched to the scene.

Once the crane arrived, it took on a few minutes to get the air ambulance “airborne” again, before setting it down gently on the back of the tractor-trailer, for a quick trip to the repair facility.

The helicopter needed help to get airborne again.

Strapped in, the copter soon headed for the helo-hospital.