Tag Archives: Drowsy Driving

UDOT braces for ‘100 Deadliest Days’ on Utah roads

New Variable Message Sign campaign reminds drivers to stay safe

SALT LAKE CITY — (May 22, 2015) — Memorial Day weekend marks the beginning of what is known as the ‘100 Deadliest Days’ of travel on Utah roads, and the Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) is urging motorists to stay alert and drive safe this summer.  

According to UDOT’s most recent fatality report, 89 people have lost their lives this year on Utah roads, compared with 73 at this time last year. That’s an increase of 22 percent. Compared to the rest of the year, traffic fatalities traditionally rise 35 percent between Memorial Day Weekend and Labor Day. During this stretch last year, 97 people were killed during the ‘100 Deadliest Days’—nearly a fatality a day.

“That’s just not acceptable,” said UDOT Executive Director Carlos Braceras. “When you consider the human cost of these nearly daily tragedies, and their impact on families and communities throughout Utah, you begin to understand why we are doing everything we can to make our Zero Fatalities goal a reality, especially during these critical months of the year.”

Beginning May 22, UDOT will launch a new variable message sign (VMS) campaign, to serve as a reminder that Zero Fatalities will require driver effort and attention. Each Friday, the overhead signs will highlight the number of days during the past week we achieved Zero Fatalities on Utah roads. On Mondays, the signs will display a weekly safety message to engage the public and increase traffic safety awareness.

VMS signs like this one on I-80 will have various safety messages during 100 Deadliest Days.

VMS signs like this one on I-80 will have various safety messages during 100 Deadliest Days.

Through this campaign, motorists are being urged to: 

Motorists planning trips on Utah highways during the Memorial Day weekend should plan ahead and check road conditions through the UDOT Traffic website (udot.utah.gov/traffic) or by downloading the UDOT Traffic smartphone application through the iPhone App Store or Android Market. These free tools allow drivers to access up-to-the-minute road conditions and traffic information.


100 Deadliest Days Recap

Red and black logo that says Zero Fatalities A Goal We Can All Live WithLabor Day weekend marked the close of what has been dubbed the 100 Deadliest Days on Utah roads. Traditionally, traffic fatalities increase significantly during the summer months compared to the rest of the year, and unfortunately this year was no different. From Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day, 96 people lost their lives on Utah roads – nearly a fatality a day. That’s up from 91 during the same period last year.

Each of these numbers represents a person whose life was cut tragically short, and a family who is experiencing unimaginable grief. The lives of so many people will never be the same.

As of September 2nd, 168 people have died on our roads in 2014, up 20 from the same time last year – more than a 13 percent increase. Our goal is Zero Fatalities, and it’s concerning anytime that number moves in the wrong direction.

Now it’s important to put these numbers in perspective. From 2000 to 2012, we reduced traffic fatalities on Utah roads by 41 percent – and in 2012, we hit a 50-year record low. We have made great strides in terms of engineering of roads and vehicles, greater enforcement and driver education – but more can always be done.

The Zero Fatalities program focuses considerable effort on school outreach and teaching young student drivers to become great drivers from the start – and to avoid the five behaviors that contribute to nearly all of the fatal crashes in our state: Aggressive Driving, Drowsy Driving, Distracted Driving, Impaired Driving… and the number one factor killing people on Utah roads – Not Buckling Up.

In 2013, nearly half of the traffic fatalities (excluding pedestrians, bicyclists and motorcyclists) were a result of people not buckling up. Of the crash investigation reports we’ve received so far this year, at least 45 people have died in 2014 because they were not wearing their seat belts.

Wearing a seat belt is not just a personal decision; it affects everyone else in the vehicle and other people on the road. In a crash, an unbuckled passenger may become a projectile and increase the risk of injury or death to the other vehicle occupants by 40 percent. Wearing a seat belt also helps the driver stay in the driver’s seat to maintain control of the vehicle.

Buckling up is the simplest action you can take to prevent injury and save your life in a crash – and it’s essential that we all make this commitment to help reach our goal of Zero Fatalities on Utah roads.

Drowsy Driving Experiment

Drowsy Driving Deomonstration

Four volunteers attempted to perform basic driving maneuvers after more than 30 hours without sleep.

It’s 4 a.m. While most Utahns are still fast asleep, four people, each with very different lives, all have one thing in common…they’re struggling to stay awake. Nate Davis is a businessman and father of four. Kylie Lalumia is a brand new mom. Lindsey Tait is 17 years old and has a busy social life. Ben Winslow is a reporter for Fox13 News. In each of their cases, it wouldn’t be unheard of to go with very little sleep.

Fast forward ten hours. This group has now been up for 30 hours or more…and they’re going to get behind the wheel. Sound dangerous? It is. That’s the point.

On Wednesday, August 7, UDOT and the Department of Public Safety held a media event to demonstrate the effects of drowsy driving. Nate, Kylie, Lindsey and Ben were invited to test their skills on DPS’s driving range. Each had to navigate through a field of cones as they tried to back up, change lanes, make sharp turns, and parallel park. How well did each driver do? Let’s just say it’s a good thing the obstacles were cones and not kids.

“Oh my gosh,” said Kylie as she ran over another cone.

“It’s a lot tougher to concentrate,” Nate said as he spun the steering wheel. “Interpreting what’s coming next is what’s getting me.”

Ben, who has a high-paced job where he jumps from story to story and is constantly tweeting, admitted the lack of sleep definitely slowed him down. He said, “It was difficult to just think. My cognitive skills were delayed…everything was just delayed because I was so tired.”

“I didn’t realize how many cones I had knocked down until you go back and look,” said a surprised Lindsey. “If I was on the road, I don’t know how many cars I would have hit. People are out there. It’s crazy to think about.”

What’s really crazy to think about is that driving drowsy can be just as dangerous as driving drunk. In fact, being awake for 20 hours is equal to a blood alcohol concentration of .08%, which is legally drunk and leaves you at a much higher risk for a crash. A drowsy driver often displays the same symptoms as a drunk driver; blurred vision, slow reaction time, and weaving in and out of lanes.

So far this year, at least 8 fatalities in Utah have been attributed to drowsy driving…and there may be more. The problem is these types of crashes are difficult to identify because the driver is often alone and there are no blood tests that show fatigue. While UDOT and UHP work hard to make our roads as safe as possible through engineering and enforcement, the driver is ultimately responsible for their own safety and those around them.

“Driving is difficult,” Sgt. Matt Smith with UHP says. “It takes a lot of focus and mental ability, and unfortunately when people are so tired, it goes right along the lines of impaired drivers.”

Nearly everyone is guilty of driving drowsy, but most people don’t realize how dangerous they actually are. Here’s something to think about. You are at risk of getting in a crash if:

  • You are driving longer than 2 hours without a break
  • You are driving alone
  • You are driving at night
  • You got 6 hours of sleep or less the night before
  • You’re working or going to school more than 60 hours a week
  • You’ve been drinking or taking medication

The best thing you can do to make sure you’re not putting yourself and others at risk is planning ahead and getting enough sleep, especially if you’ll be doing a lot of driving the following day.

If you do find yourself nodding off, having difficulty focusing, blinking excessively, yawning repeatedly, and especially drifting out of your lane, tailgating or hitting rumble strips…it’s your responsibility to get off the road. Turning up the radio or rolling down your window is not going to cut it. Those things don’t work. You need to pull over and switch drivers, take a short nap, get out of the car and stretch or walk around or even find a safe place to sleep for the night.

Nate, Kylie, Lindsey and Ben all said their drowsy driving experiment was eye opening for them…and we’re hoping it will open the eyes of other drivers and maybe save lives.

For more information about the dangers of driving drowsy, go to sleepsmartdrivesmart.com or zerofatalities.com and check out Ben’s story below.




In 2012, 215 lives were lost on Utah’s roads in car crashes—the lowest Utah traffic fatalities have been since 1959. We are making progress toward our goal of Zero Fatalities, but we still have a ways to go. These 215 fatalities were preventable and we hope we can continue to see this number decline, ultimately to zero.

Fatality Numbers

Here are five simple ways to save lives—including your own—on Utah’s roads.

  1. Always, always buckle up. Wearing your seat belt is the single most effective thing you can do to protect yourself in a crash. In 2012, buckling up could have saved 67 lives on Utah’s roads. Buckling up takes two seconds to do, and could mean the difference between life or death in a crash. Commit now to always wear your seat belt, and let your passengers know that your car won’t move until everyone is buckled up.
  2. If you’ve been drinking, don’t drive. Designate a driver, call a cab or take public transit. There is no excuse for driving under the influence. Sadly, 41 people died in Utah due to impaired driving in 2012. Alcohol and illegal drugs aren’t the only things that can impair your driving. Prescription drugs, over-the-counter medicines and lack of sleep can also impair your ability to drive safely.
  3. Too tired? Don’t drive. Believe it or not, drowsy driving kills. Fourteen fatalities in 2012 are attributed to drowsy driving. If you’re feeling drowsy, pull over and switch drivers, find a safe place to sleep for the night or get out of the car and stretch or jog for a few minutes. Drowsy driving is just as dangerous as drunk driving.
  4. Stay focused on the road. With so many potential distractions, a driver’s attention may easily get diverted if the driver isn’t making a conscious effort to stay focused on the road. It takes just one time of looking away for a brief moment—reading a text, changing the radio or even answering the phone—to cause a disaster. Twenty people died in 2012 in distracted driving-related crashes.
  5. Slow down and don’t drive aggressively. Whether you have a “need for speed” or you’re running a few minutes late, pushing that accelerator a little harder could cost you your life—it cost 43 people theirs in 2012. A total of 49 people died on Utah’s roads in 2012 due to aggressive driving or speeding. Aggressive driving means operating a vehicle in a way that endangers or is likely to endanger people or property.

2012 Zero Fatalities Infographic

Join us as we continue the conversation about Zero Fatalities, what you can do and how we’re doing toward our goal in 2013 by following us on Twitter and liking us on Facebook. You can also review the full 2012 Fatalities Data Analysis report by visiting the Zero Fatalities website.

This post was written by Jane Putnam, Zero Fatalities Team.