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‘100 deadliest days’ wrap up with record decrease in Utah road fatalities

Officials said this year’s 40% decrease in highway deaths represents a record increase in lives saved.

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Meghan Hunter, 18, of Provo, left, listens during a press conference reporting the sharpest-ever decrease in the number of road fatalities during the summer at Intermountain Medical Center in Murray on Thursday, Sept. 5, 2019. Hunter and her brother were involved in a July 4 rollover accident that fractured several of her vertebrae, but she credited the facts that they weren’t speeding and were wearing seat belts with saving their lives. At the press conference, people in numbered shirts represented the 41 fewer road fatalities Utah experienced during the period between Memorial Day and Labor Day compared to 2018.

Spenser Heaps, Deseret News

MURRAY — Meghan Hunter and her brother, Morgan Hunter, nearly died this 4th of July when, on the way to time a 5K, their car rolled after swerving to avoid a deer.

Though sustaining fractures in her neck, Hunter said she feels “lucky that things weren’t worse.”

Jason Davis, director of engineering and operations at the Utah Department of Transportation, however, said it was more than luck that saved the two BYU students’ lives.

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Photographs of the aftermath of car crashes are displayed at Intermountain Medical Center in Murray during a press conference on Thursday, Sept. 5, 2019, reporting the sharpest-ever decrease in the number of road fatalities during the summer. Preliminary numbers show Utah roads saw 62 deaths during the “100 deadliest days” — the period between Memorial Day and Labor Day — 41 fewer than in 2018.

Spenser Heaps, Deseret News

“They weren’t lucky that they had their seat belt on, they made that decision. They weren’t lucky that they were driving the speed limit, they made that decision,” he said during a press conference at the Intermountain Health Center in Murray on Thursday.

It was thanks to those decisions, he said, that their parents still have their 18-year-old daughter and 24-year-old son. Officials say their lives are representative of an increase in lives saved on Utah roads this summer.

The time between Memorial Day and Labor Day has historically been the deadliest for Utah motorists, leading public safety officials to dub them the “100 deadliest days” in a campaign to raise awareness while driving Utah’s roads. During that time, Davis said, “we have people traveling at odd hours, long weekends and enjoying time on the lake, in the mountains and going on vacations.”

He explained that more people on the road and more distractions mean more dangerous road conditions. The state has historically averaged one fatality per day during those 100 days, but this year that average dropped considerably — with 41 fewer people killed in crashes.

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Utah Highway Patrol Col. Michael Rapich speaks at a press conference at Intermountain Medical Center in Murray on Thursday, Sept. 5, 2019, reporting the sharpest-ever decrease in the number of road fatalities during the summer. Preliminary numbers show Utah roads saw 62 deaths during the “100 deadliest days” — the period between Memorial Day and Labor Day — 41 fewer than in 2018.

Spenser Heaps, Deseret News

Preliminary numbers show 62 road fatalities during this year’s deadliest days, marking a record decrease of 40% compared to 103 fatalities last summer.

Nevertheless, officials said this year’s fatalities are still 62 too many.

“Anyone who has lost a loved one will know what that means” said Utah Highway Patrol Col. Michael Rapich.

Addressing those who “chose to make the right decisions” to buckle up, slow down and put away distractions, he said, “thank you for helping us make progress toward where we really want to be and that’s no one losing their live on Utah roads.”

Hunter said after she recovers from her injuries and is able to drive again, the rule in her car will be that “everybody needs their seat belts on.”

“We had a lot of climbing equipment in the car, it was just scattered all over the road,” she said. “If we weren’t wearing our seat belt then I probably wouldn’t be here today.”