Labor 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.