January 13th, 2011

FOCUS ON SEATBELTS

8 Comments, Uncategorized, by Catherine Higgins.

Utah traffic related fatalities are the lowest in 36 years, but there’s no low that’s too low.

Tim Cosgrove, who works as a Child Advocate for Primary Children's Medical Center, encourages Mallory to keep speaking out about safe behavior choices.

Out of the 235 people who lost their lives in 2010, 89 were not wearing seatbelts. ” That’s 89 people who could be here with us today,” says UDOT Deputy Director Carlos Braceras.

“We do our best to engineer the roads,” said Braceras. “But there’s only so much that we can do. We can’t make you put down that cell phone. We can’t make you give the keys to someone who hasn’t been drinking. We can’t make you put on your seat belt. That’s up to everyone who gets in a car.”

Reducing crashes on our roads is a shared responsibility

One fatality means the loss of a beloved sibling, child or parent. Eighteen year old Mallory Martinez knows she might have been one of those fatalities had she not been wearing a seatbelt one day last November.

The Westminster College student was on her way home to Price, Utah for a weekend visit and was operating her iPod while driving on U.S. 6. She clipped a trailer “and from there I just spun and lost control,” said Martinez.

While her car was rolling, her thoughts were on her siblings and parents. Her car was totaled but she walked away with some scrapes. Martinez knows she’s lucky so she takes time to tell others to stay safe.

Video Courtesy of KSL.com

January 12th, 2011

FILLING POTHOLES

10 Comments, Preserve Infrastructure, Uncategorized, by Catherine Higgins.

The winter freeze-thaw cycle is asphalt’s arch enemy.

Workers use a hot method to fill a pothole near Echo Junction.

UDOT crews are out in full force this time of year doing their best to stay ahead of pothole proliferation. Because of the way they are formed, repairing the dastardly dips can be a real challenge.

From the bottom up

Usually a pothole starts when water seeps into a crack in the asphalt to the soil below. As ice forms in the water-saturated soil, the area expands and causes the asphalt to heave and crack even more. Warmer temperatures melt the ice and relax the soil and asphalt. The final blow comes when the weight of traffic causes the asphalt to cave in and form a pothole.

Traditional repair involves using asphalt to fix the pothole. Hot asphalt is the best repair because it seeps into the cracks and bonds well with the old material, but cold winter temperatures prevent its use.

Cold mix asphalt is stockpiled at UDOT maintenance sheds and used to fill potholes during winter months.  Sometimes a fix works well, but sometimes, the repair pops out during the next freeze-thaw cycle.

” When using cold mix, it’s a temporary repair until we are able to go in and square out the hole and fill and compact with hot mix,” says Todd Richins, Area Supervisor at UDOT Region Two.

New hot and cold repairs

UDOT is actively seeking longer lasting repairs, and maintenance engineers have found some promising options.

A new hot method heats the existing asphalt so it can be mixed with

A hot repair on a pothole at Echo Junction.

additional asphalt and then compacted. This hot repair method was tested on a notorious pothole on I-84 at Echo Junction in December 2009.

According to Richins, the repair is still intact. UDOT maintenance workers are putting it into use in other appropriate locations.

An easy to use patch in a bag method has also been tried on an I-15 bridge in Santaquin. The mix consists of asphalt and polymer, and it’s designed to instantly bond with the old material when poured directly on a crack or pothole. UDOT Maintenance trucks can sometimes be the method of compaction.

Winter cold mix repairs in this area on I-15 usually lasted a week or two at most, but this pour and pack repair has lasted a year without failing with workers adding more material as needed.

“It works really well, and we’re using it in a lot of places,” says Glen Wahlberg, Area Supervisor in Region Three. “We love it.”

UDOT will continue to look for longer lasting repairs that defy, for as long as possible anyway, Utah’s winter freeze-thaw weather cycles.

Want to know where the term “pothole” comes from?  Follow this link to learn more about potholes.

January 7th, 2011

MEETING ONLINE

1 Comment, Uncategorized, by Catherine Higgins.

UDOT recently held an online public meeting in conjunction with an official in-person public meeting.

Vic Saunders gets ready to read a prepared statement to the online meeting audience.

Shopping, going to school and socializing can all be done online — why not attend meetings online? UDOT recently held an online meeting along side a regular public meeting in order to expand public participation.

Public Information Manager Beau Hunter of Horrocks is the one who suggested the approach as a way to reach a young, busy audience. Vic Saunders, Public Involvement Manager of UDOT Region One, credits Beau for having the initial idea and running with it.

Penna Powers Brian Haynes was “added to our team for horse power to allow us to better utilize technology and innovation together,” says Beau. “Wendy Hansen with PPBH was extremely integral in the development and execution of the online meeting. Most importantly they developed the online ad campaign that generated a lot of traffic to our website in a very short period of time. “

While the in-person meeting was taking place, Vic and Wendy answered questions via laptop. Every half hour Vic gave an overview of the purpose of the meeting a urged public feedback.

Meeting organizers made use of free software that allows attendees to sign up for the meeting ahead of time. The software allows easy back and forth communication similar to texting using a laptop or smartphone. The software also integrates with cameras and microphones, but those features are not necessary.

Overall, the online portion of the meeting was a success and organizers will  use the approach again. Vic offers two pieces of advice to others who want to try the approach:

First, promote the online meeting early so people have time to download the software and get familiar with the site.

Second, “promote it like you really want people to see it, suggests Vic, by putting the information about the online meeting on the front page of the project website or another easy to find place.

“Promote large,” says Vic, “We burried ours a layer or two down and that reduced participation.”

January 1st, 2011

HOW NOT TO DRIVE STUPID

2 Comments, Uncategorized, by Catherine Higgins.

The Zero Fatalities message — that even one traffic related death is too many — is the central message of the Don’t Drive Stupid Campaign.

Grave markers at Skyline High School bring the message into sharp focus: Zero is the only goal we can all live with.

UDOT strives to do everything possible to reduce fatalities, including educating the public about making safe driving choices.  Teen drivers are more likely than any other age group to die in a crash — three times more likely than the average driver.

The Don’t Drive Stupid campaign is aimed at teen drivers and outlines ways to keep kids safe on the road. The website has good information for parents and kids, including a driving manual for teens.

In addition to great information, the site has storie= s about teens who have lost their lives in crashes. While sad, hopefully this

information can motivate teens to think about safety before getting behind the wheel..

December 30th, 2010

HOORAY FOR DOZER DUDES

3 Comments, Uncategorized, by Catherine Higgins.

Three bulldozer operators were honored by the National Guard for their role in fighting the Machine Gun Fire in the foothills above Herriman, Utah.

Three dozer operators are flanked by Utah National Guard members. Left to right: Roger Franz, (vest) UDOT Parley's Canyon Station Supervisor; Shawn Wright, UDOT Transportation Technion and Kevin Williams, Salt Lake County Safety Coordinator.

The fire that started on September 19, 2010 quickly consumed three homes and caused hundreds of residents to be evacuated. Facing shifting winds and a fast moving blaze, the three men built a fire line to protect more homes from being destroyed.

Salt Lake City Firefighter Rich Platt was called to help fight the fire and saw the bulldozer operators at work in dangerous conditions. “They were on steep terrain with fire rapidly approaching,” says Platt. “And wind makes fire dynamic – that means things can change fast.”

According to a Fox 13 TV story, Frantz said the experience was frightening. ”It was scary. You know I was surprised that we were able to save any of the houses as fast as the fire was coming.”

December 21st, 2010

PARENTS WITH STREET CRED

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)

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


December 15th, 2010

SAFE DRIVING CONTRACTS

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.

TEAR JERKER ALERT:

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. www.cdc.gov/parentsarethekey 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

HARK! THE HERALD STUDENTS SING

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

INATTENTIVE TEENS

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

TAG, YOU’RE NOT HIT

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’”