Tag Archives: highway safety

Incident Management Team celebrates 20 years of service

If you’ve ever had a flat tire, run out of gas, or driven by a crash on Utah’s roadways, chances are you’ve seen the white Incident Management trucks loaded with orange traffic cones, their electronic signs on the top with vital information. An integral part of how the state deals with time-sapping events on our roadways, UDOT’s Incident Management Team has 15 teams on call statewide for just about anything that can happen.

But it wasn’t always that way: After 20 years, it’s time to celebrate the service of the unsung heroes of the IMT team.

Incident Management Team

IMT members Billy Frashure, Nick Jarrett, Mark Whittaker, Jeff Reynolds and Alan Peterson are some of the professionals keeping Utah drivers safe. Photo by Adan Carrillo

In 1994, UDOT started a courtesy patrol — two trucks assigned to help drivers in the Salt Lake Area. But time and demand have increased the IMT’s role. No longer is the team looked at as a courtesy — but a necessity — in keeping Utah freeways safe and traffic moving from Logan to St. George and everywhere in between.

Consider this: since 2004, the IMT has helped more than 120,000 motorists in the Beehive State. With these professionals specifically trained in clearing crashes off the road quickly and then staying on the scene, emergency personnel and the Highway Patrol can focus on what they do best while knowing IMT is protecting them on the road.

Another important stat: with each minute saved by clearing a crash, five minutes of delays are prevented. Clearing crashes also helps prevent secondary crashes.

“Think of how many drivers have been helped since 1994, how many injuries have been prevented, or lives saved?” said UDOT Executive Director Carlos Braceras during a celebration on Monday. “IMT is a critical piece to help us reach our goal of Zero Fatalities.”

Braceras went on to give all of us safety tips to help IMT and UDOT out with the goal of Zero Fatalities on Utah roads:

  • Don’t stop on the freeway unless it’s an emergency
  • If you ARE involved in an incident, stay in your car with your seat belt on.
  • Slow down and move over to the next lane if you see a vehicle on the side of the road — it’s the law to do so for emergency vehicles.
  • Make sure you have enough fuel to make your trip safely
  • Check your spare tire to see if it’s in working condition
  • Prepare for the worst weather by keeping a blanket, food and water in the car.
  • Leave a lot of distance between you and the car in front of you.
Five Incident Management Team Vehicles offered the media ride-alongs to give them a better idea of what it’s like to be an IMT professional. Photo by Adan Carrillo.

Five Incident Management Team Vehicles offered the media ride-alongs to give them a better idea of what it’s like to be an IMT professional. Photo by Adan Carrillo.

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.



Truck Smart and Drive To Stay Alive

Drive to Stay Alive and Truck Smart are brought to you by UDOT’s Motor Carrier Division. These two programs have the same goal of addressing drivers safety but to two different audiences. The Truck Smart program focuses on helping drivers develop a healthy respect for  large trucks and buses while the Drive to Stay Alive program encourages good safety habits among truck drivers. Both campaigns were started almost five years ago but were recently revitalized with a new website containing pamphlets and program information on safe driving.


Truck Smart is a program that serves to remind the motoring public of the importance of driving safely around large trucks. Jim Phillips, Utah’s Motor Carrier Training Coordinator said, “Statistically 75% of drivers and big rigs that are involved in an accident, the driver of the automobile is to blame.” 

The newly revitalized Truck Smart website contains driver education information including a student workbook where new drivers can learn how to safely drive with trucks on the road.  The site emphasizes four different aspects of driving with trucks that are important to remember while driving:

1. Know the “No Zone”

  • It’s important for drivers to remember that the front, back and sides of trucks are all “no Zones,” or blindspots,  for truck drivers. When a person is “Camping out” in these zones the driver cannot see you.

2.  Don’t Cut Off Trucks

  • Always give trucks enough room and never cut them off because their stopping distance is not the same as a smaller vehicle.

3. Stopping Distances

  • Trucks always need more time to stop than cars. Be careful when passing and make sure to never cut them off.

4. Wide Turns

  • Trucks have a higher center of gravity and therefore need more room to make turns.  Never try to squeeze past a truck in order to turn because you might just get hit as well.

Drive to stay alive is a program centered around truck drivers, and their passengers to remind all parties of safe driving habits while on the road. The program was primarily for truck drivers but the rules and safety tips apply to all.DTSA_Logo

Safe driving tips include:

Drowsy Driving: 

You are drowsy driving if:

  • Difficulty focusing, frequent blinking, or heavy eyelid
  • Trouble remembering the last few miles driven
  • Repeated yawning
  • Trouble keeping your head up
  • Drifting, tailgating, or hitting shoulder rumble strip
  • Restlessness and irritability

Slowing down, don’t speed

  • Driving too fast can put your life at risk as well as the lives of those around you. Slowing down can make all the difference between a major or a minor accident.

Seat Belt Safety

  • Always buckle up. Period.

The Truck Smart team makes presentations to schools around the state. A presentation was recently given at Westlake High School where 70 student drivers were instructed on the importance of being “Truck Smart” while driving and how to “Drive to Stay Alive.”

Truck Smart and Drive To Stay Alive giving a presentation at Westlake High School.

Truck Smart and Drive To Stay Alive giving a presentation at Westlake High School.

Phillips summarized the education approach as following the same example of the “Buckle Up” program. Children were encouraged in grade schools to buckle up while driving. It’s the same idea with the “No Zone”, kids go home and tell their parents to buckle up or be Truck Smart and less accidents happen.

The division of Motor Carriers will be at the The Great Salt Lake Truck Show August 16-17 at Thanksgiving point. A booth about Truck Smart and Drive to Stay Alive will be on display with pamphlets and further information.

TruckSmart: http://www.udot.utah.gov/trucksmart

Drive To Stay Alive: http://www.udot.utah.gov/drivetostayalive/

Highway Littering and Failing to Secure a Load Amendments

Chair and stuffed gorrilla removed from I-15 in Orem.

UDOT crews removed this chair and stuffed gorilla from I-15 in Orem.

Legislators passed this past March HB 328 S1. This bill increases the fines for littering on a highway and increases the fines for failing to secure a load while operating a vehicle on a highway.  Previously, a person could be fined no less than $100 for littering or not securing a load. This has been increased to no less than $200. The fine for a second or subsequent violation within three years of a previous violation also increased from $250 to $500.

The fine for violators operating a commercial vehicle also increased with this bill. Previously, a person could be fined no less than $250 for littering or not securing a load. This has been increased to no less than $500. A second or subsequent violation also increased from $500 to $1,000.

Under this bill a vehicle may not be operated or moved on any highway unless the vehicle is constructed or loaded to prevent its contents from dropping, sifting, leaking, or otherwise escaping. A vehicle carrying trash or garbage shall have a covering over the entire load. A vehicle carrying dirt, sand, gravel, rock fragments, pebbles, crushed base, aggregate, any other similar material, or scrap metal shall have a covering over the entire load unless:

  • the highest point of the load does not extend above the top of any exterior wall or sideboard of the cargo compartment of the vehicle; and
  • the outer edges of the load are at least six inches below the top inside edges of the exterior walls or sideboards of the cargo compartment of the vehicle.

Unsecured loads are dangerous, not just for drivers but for Utah Highway Patrol Officers who must remove items that have fallen off vehicles. Officers and drivers have been killed from debris on roads and freeways, left by negligent vehicle operators.

Currently, it costs Utah $1.8 million dollars to clear trash from state roadways, money that could spent on maintenance or construction projects. In the coming year signage displaying the new fines for litter will be placed along Utah roadways. Money from fines will be split between the Utah Highway Patrol for litter blitzes, and the Utah Department of Transportation for education and public awareness on the dangers of littering and not securing loads.

2013 Strategic Direction — Part 4

This is the fourth and final post in our series about the 2013 Strategic Direction. Please also check out Part 1: Preserve Infrastructure, Part 2: Optimize Mobility and Part 3: Zero Fatalities.

Strengthen the Economy

This goal recognizes UDOT’s role in creating and managing a transportation system that enables economic growth and empowers prosperity. Investing in major roadway projects in the past few years has paid great dividends. While many cities in the United States show increasing travel times, Utah travel times are decreasing. This is very significant considering the population of Utah has grown 63 percent since 1990.

UDOT is providing a product for future generations. When Utah’s roadways are safe, free of congestion and operate efficiently, Utahns are free to live where they like with a wider selection of jobs. Businesses are also able to reach a wider range of customers and employee base. Success in the first three goals creates a solid foundation for economic growth.

UDOT understands the importance of mobility and its significance for economic growth. Businesses also understand the importance of locating in areas where their product can be distributed quickly and efficiently, and where their employees can benefit from a healthy quality of life.

Everyone benefits from a safe transportation system, including the economy. When a roadway is known to be safe, residents and visitors will be more likely to use it. Safe roads can promote the growth of business along that roadway and the local economy.

For the third year in a row, Forbes magazine has named Utah as the best state in the U.S. for doing business. According to economist, transportation plays a big role in the state’s business environment. Certainly, businesses in Utah are benefiting from the improved mobility on roadways.

In conclusion, UDOT has completed two of the largest projects in our history using only state funds and delivered the largest construction season in our history. Our significant challenge remains. However, the future is bright for transportation as we focus on our four strategic goals.


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.


Utah wildlife management experts love this new structure under I-70.


High arch-crossing gets high marks for safety, and good looks.

Speaking for herself and other wildlife management experts, USU Assistant Professor Patricia Cramer calls this underpass crossing “our pride and joy.”  The new structure looks great and has good functionality as a wildlife crossing too.

Cramer is especially pleased that it’s been used by elk, who are difficult customers when it comes to crossings.  Read about elk using this crossing in a previous post: Appealing to Elk.

Randall Taylor, UDOT Design and Environmental Engineer is happy with the crossing too. He was involved with developing specifications for the high arch structure — the contractor designated the construction method and products used by Contech, a construction products company.

The crossing was built under I-70. Work was staged to allow traffic to be maintained during construction.

Here are some construction photos courtesy of Contech:

Workers place wire mesh that will reinforce concrete footings. The retaining wall on the right was built in five supported lifts.

A crane places a pre-formed concrete arch section on the footings.

Wing walls add structural support and also channel animals into the arch crossing.

According to an I-70 Wildlife Crossing summary of the project produced by Contech, “The CON/SPAN used on our I-70 Wildlife Crossing was great for this application,” said Lyndon Friant, UDOT Resident Engineer.  “It was installed quickly and effectively, allowing for minimal impact to the traveling public…”


Crossings protect wildlife and people, too.


Elk are usually universal refusers when it comes to underpass crossings. But a few elk have ventured through this wildlife crossing on I-70.

UDOT employees understand that accommodating Utah’s beautiful earth-bound migrating creatures helps keep people safe too. Effective wildlife crossings can reduce the number of auto-wildlife crash incidents on state roads.

Deciding where to place and build structures that work for mule deer, elk, moose and other animals is a studied, multi-step process. UDOT partners with wildlife experts and uses knowledge gained by research in order to plan and build the right crossing at the right location.

This moose is not faked-out by a painted-on cattle guard. Painted crossings are not included in UDOT's standards but some old ones are maintained.

Some common UDOT crossing types include fenced bridges, corrugated pipes, box culverts, underpass structures and even lines painted on the road meant to mimic an actual cattle guard. Fencing around crossing structures is also used to deter animals from using the road.

Fickle Elk

One of the main concerns wildlife experts share is about elk, who typically “refuse to go through anything,”  says USU Associate Professor Dr. Patricia Cramer. A report on research conducted by Cramer in 2008 through 2010 documents some good news.

Cramer posted 35 motion-activated cameras near wildlife crossings in Utah.  Out of 200,000 photos, about 20 images of elk using the crossings were captured at two locations: a pair of bridges near Beaver and a new high-arch underpass on I-70. In a phone interview, Cramer called this new information “very, very significant.”

A mule deer investigates a culvert type crossing before turning away.

Besides documenting elk use, Cramer’s crossing study shows some interesting trends. First,  ungulates rarely use long box culvert crossing structures where exclusion fencing is absent.

Second, the mule deer repellency rate is related to the length of the crossing. Cramer explains the repellancy rate in her study as “the number of observations where mule deer attempted to enter a crossing and have turned around and left, divided by the total number of mule deer observations at the site.”

Mule deer cross a bridge over I-15.

Cramer’s findings underscore the importance of studying all crossing types and features and her data will be used by UDOT to plan and build crossings to accomplish UDOT’s premier goal to improve safety. Her study will be posted on the UDOT website in the the Research Division’s section for Environmental research.

Check back this week to see a post about construction of the high-arch crossing on I-70.

For more information, see:

USU Ecologist Leading Efforts to Stop Wildlife-Vehicle Collisions

Wildlife and Roads


UDOT’s system for helping to optimize travel on I-15 is working, but some bad driving behaviors really cross the double white lines.


Crossing the double white lines can also land you a hefty fine -- $82.

The good news about UDOT’s new Express Lane system is that it’s working.

Travel time on I-15 is improved when drivers use the Express Lanes. Vehicles with more than one passenger can use the Express Lanes for free. Solo drivers can purchase a pass and pay to use Express Lanes. UDOT manages travel time in the Express Lane by charging pass users a variable rate base on travel speed on I-15.

The smart new system allows vehicles to take up available space in the Express Lanes so travel time on I-15 is better for everyone.  But when drivers  cross the double white lines,  they risk causing a crash. Crossing the double white lines is un-safe practice and illegal for that reason.  Why?

Catherine Cutler is the engineer in charge of letting you know that crossing the double white lines is unsafe and illegal.

“There’s a speed differential between the Express Lanes and the general purpose lanes,” says Catherine Cutler, UDOT Express Lanes Project Manager. “My job is to make sure drivers are aware of how dangerous that practice is. Weaving in and out of the lanes by crossing the double white lines can cause drivers to break suddenly or swerve and cause a crash. ”

The Express Lanes on I-15 have been engineered to be as safe as possible. Double white lines provide a buffer to separate traffic traveling at different speeds from merging unexpectedly while dotted white lines provide an expected point for vehicles to move in and out of the Express Lanes.

Cutler hopes more drivers will be aware of Express Lane safety issues as they see some new billboards along I-15 at 1550 North and 12645 South. If everybody follows the law, drivers can enjoy Express Lane benefits without the risks caused by crossing the double white lines.


UDOT is improving pavement marking visibility at night during storms.

Glass beads and grooving: This image from a UDOT report on improving pavement marking retroreflectivity shows glass beads and reflective beads added to paint. Grooving pavement before applying markings is a way to avoid plow blade wear and tear.

Road users are sometime frustrated when pavement markings are less visible at night during storms — and for good reason. “We realize this issue is a safety concern,” says Ken Berg, UDOT Maintenance Planning Engineer. “Pavement marking visibility is our number one safety priority here in Maintenance all the time, but especially in wet weather and at night.”

Pavement marking visibility can be reduced because of water on the road and wear caused by snow plow blades.

Water interferes with the reflectivity of pavement markings. “Light is refracted in all directions through the water, rather than retro reflected back to the driver,” according to Berg. One way to combat this reflectivity issue is to add profile, or thickness, so markings are visible above the water.

Adding profile can be accomplished by using thicker products or adding glass beads to the paint. However, high profile markings can get scraped off by snow plows. “Thicker markings won’t usually last through the winter,” says Berg. “So, the increased cost of thicker markings isn’t usually justified.”

UDOT is studying ways to counter water and plow blades.

Dan Betts, Region 2 Pavement Marking Coordinator and Berg are developing application methods that can be used by state forces without expensive materials or special equipment. Betts has developed and refined the process of cutting a groove in the pavement so paint is recessed below the surface. Recessed markings are less likely to be worn down by snow plow blades.

In addition to grooving, adding retroreflective glass and ceramic beads to paint improves visibility during wet and dry conditions and at night. Tests done at night confirm the effectiveness of the beads.

For more information, see a report on the process conducted on I-84 in Weber Canyon.