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After alarming number of road fatalities, officials caution Utah motorists to remain alert

SHARE After alarming number of road fatalities, officials caution Utah motorists to remain alert
FILE - UDOT is using electronic signs in hopes more people will notice and heed the safety messages.

FILE - UDOT is using electronic signs in hopes more people will notice and heed the safety messages.

Brandon Whitworth, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — After the deadliest weekend on Utah roads so far this summer, officials are warning motorist to remain vigilant as the 100 deadliest days of summer are in full swing.

When compared to summer of 2017 and 2018, the state has been on track this year to seeing a decrease in road fatalities. However, Utah Highway Patrol Col. Mike Rapich said this weekend's deaths were cause for concern.

"This last weekend for the Utah highway Patrol and for motorists across the state was a tough weekend," he said. Friday through Sunday officers responded to five fatal crashes resulting in a total of seven deaths.

The weeks between Memorial Day weekend and Labor Day weekend are the most dangerous for motorists. Utah’s zero fatalities program reports that during this time, the state sees nearly double the amount of fatal crashes as compared to the rest of the year.

Road fatalities during this period were 59 in 2017, 71 in 2018, and 45 so far this summer.

"We've seen a better year this year than we have the last two years, but this weekend was not representative of that," said Rapich.

On Friday, a rollover crash caused the death of 55-year old Daniel W. Haynie on southbound I-15 near Cedar City. While merging onto the freeway in the same area later that day, 55-year old Kimberly Roundy was also killed.

A head-on collision near Monticello on Sunday caused the death of Kenneth Harding, 75, Frances Harding, 73, and Patricia Storm, 68.

Also on Sunday, an ATV crash near Strawberry Reservoir on U.S. 40 East killed Norman Lange, 50, and later that evening, Rapich said another fatal crash took place near the Navajo Nation on state Route 191. The victim's identity in that incident has not been released, but UHP Sgt. Nick Street said DUI impairment is suspected.

Rapich said at least two victims killed in the weekend's crashes were not wearing seatbelts.

"If there is one thing that can absolutely save your life and make your survivability of a crash much better, it's to have your seatbelt on," he said, noting that chances of surviving a crash are "50% better if you have your seatbelt on."

Rapich said a common denominator with most of this weekend's incidents was inattentive driving.

"The reality is that small mistakes when it comes to being alert and inattentive driving can have really significant consequences," he said.

Street said the roads tend to be more dangerous during the summer months because, for one, the volume of drivers increases as vacationers travel. Ne noted "it's leisure time," which means "we're easily distracted."

"There's never been more distractions with smartphones and the technology in our car," he said. He warned that "when you're behind the wheel, you only have one primary obligation, and 100% of your focus needs to be on driving that vehicle."

Construction was another factor in the crashes, Street said.

"As we're slowly moving through construction scenes," he said, we often get frustrated that we are not moving as fast as we had expected to. "Once we break through those construction areas, or even in those construction areas, we tend to get a little bit of a lead foot."

He cautioned motorist "to be patient with (construction) and realize that our behavior shouldn't change based on our schedule."