Utah roads last year saw the highest death toll in nearly two decades


Surname are parents. Surname are children. They did beloved community members. They did simply do their job.

According to data from the Utah Department of Transportation and the Utah Highway Patrol, they are 320 people who died on Utah roads in 2021.

“This is not just statistics,” said UHP Colonel Michael Rapich. “These are terrible, tragic events linked to a violent tragedy.”

State soldiers, including Rapich, were present to witness these deaths, witnessing grisly injuries, telling families that a loved one did not come home safely. They also know that more than 90 percent of these crashes would be prevented, Rapich said, if drivers weren’t speeding, drunk, or distracted with their phones.

“They feel strongly about it, and they recognize it personally when they see it – whether it’s a impaired driver or an aggressive or distracted driver,” says Rapich. Most or all of these behaviors are completely preventable and everyone should know better. “That has had a huge impact on our soldiers.”

Speeding vehicles and poor drivers caused the most deaths, at 81 and 138 respectively.

74 people died not wearing seat belts. Braceras said about 12 percent of Utahns don’t wear seat belts, even though it’s the “simplest, easiest way” to reduce serious injury or death.

The highest death rate in two decades

Up more than 15% since 2020, last year saw the highest death toll in nearly two decades when 329 people died in 2002, according to UDOT and UHP data released Wednesday.

UDOT director Carlos Braceras said: “These numbers are absolutely devastating for the people here in our organization and for our partners at Highway Patrol who have done the work. working very hard so that there are no deaths.”

Drivers often don’t think that every decision made on the road can have consequences, Braceras said. Those decisions can save a life or take a person.

“When you’re driving a car, it’s probably the most dangerous thing people have ever done,” Braceras said.

Mortality decreased from 2016 to 2019 but started to increase in 2020 when 276 people died.

“It’s not encouraging,” said Utah Safety Council President John Wojciechowski. “Just when you think you’re making progress, we’re going to have a year like this, and it’s tough.”

Braceras points to the uncertainties of the pandemic as a potential reason behind the numbers.

“People over the last two years have been working with things they have never dealt with before,” Braceras said. “I don’t have the data behind it, but we believe all of these tensions are at least partly if not completely behind these changes.”

Most of those killed were occupants of vehicles, but 44 pedestrians, 37 motorcyclists and six cyclists also died on the road.

What is being done

Zero deaths is not only a mantra for road safety advocates, but is the real goal of UDOT, UHP, and the Utah Safety Council. To that end, everyone has a responsibility to drive safely, Braceras said.

The Zero Fatal Program, a collaboration of various agencies and organizations, offers several approaches to reducing traffic deaths.

The most recent report from Zero Fatalities outlines five E state can focus on.

  • Engineering: Plan, design, build, and maintain safer roads and transit options.

  • Education: Help drivers better understand the do’s and don’ts of driving, as human error is a factor in more than 90% of crashes.

  • Enforcement: Regular patrols as well as special efforts between state and local police agencies to remind drivers of the penalties for unsafe driving

  • Emergency medical services: Timely and well-trained paramedics across the state are vital to saving the lives of crash victims

  • Everyone: It takes every driver’s effort to keep everyone on the road safe.

Updated laws, including graduate driver licensing and the legal limit to reduce the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) to 0.05, have helped ensure road safety, Rapich said. said, but more needs to be done to encourage safe driving.

Zero Fatalities will launch a year-long campaign this month that focuses on the beauty of Utah and the joy of getting to safety, said program director Kristen Hoschouer.

The Destination campaign will highlight different seasonal activities, such as skiing in winter or summer, on social media, billboards and TV ads, Hoschouer said.

“Those things are brought to us by driving safely,” says Hoschouer, “which is the only way we can get to those beautiful destinations.”

This campaign will be different from some traditional types of campaigns that focus on fear, Hoschouer said. There will still be efforts and posts focused on the dangers of driving and how individual driver decisions affect others, but Hoschouer said they want to take a combination of approaches.

“We wanted to have a balance of the type of messaging that we were going to do,” says Hoschouer.

The council also organizes safe driving classes to highlight the impact each driver can have on the road. Most people who take the classes are directed there after receiving a speeding or other ticket, but they are open to the public for $40 to $50, depending on the class. learn.

Free educational resources can be found at

Council vice-chairman Brandee Crockett said reaching zero is hard, but even one death affects the lives of many others.

“It’s heartbreaking that people have to go through that,” Crockett said. “Anything you can do to save one life, let alone all the others, I think that’s very important.” Utah roads last year saw the highest death toll in nearly two decades

Yasmin Harisha

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