UTAH — Utah’s 100 Deadliest Days on its public roads is officially set from Memorial Day to Labor Day. But, the Beehive state is already on a bad path.
Utah Highway Patrol spokesman Lt. Nick Street said 83 people died in 78 separate crashes since January 1. Five of those fatalities occurred Sunday.
Weekend crashes kickstarts 100 Deadliest Days early
A 21-year-old man was killed about 4 a.m. Sunday when the vehicle he was a passenger in failed to make a turn while going down Squaw Peak Road in Provo Canyon and rolled 200 feet down a steep embankment, according to police. The passenger, who was not wearing a seat belt, was ejected and killed. Victor Alencastro, 21, of Orem, was arrested for investigation of automobile homicide.
In Iron County, a family of four was traveling on I-15 near Paragonah in a Honda Odyssey van about 7:30 a.m. when a rear tire “experienced a failure” and caused the driver to lose control, according to UHP. Troopers said the van hit the median and rolled twice.
Zahara Ismael, 14, and Hamdiyan Salman, 74, from San Diego, were in the second row and not wearing seat belts. They were ejected and killed. Two others were taken to local hospitals.
About 10 a.m. Sunday, Richard Hansen, 77, of Clearfield, was killed while riding a motorcycle on Trappers Loop Road in Huntsville, Weber County, when he “ran off the right side of the roadway and onto the grass hillside,” according to UHP. The man continued driving through grass about 200 yards before he crashed, and died on scene.
In Kaysville, five people in one car plowed into a fence at 700 East Crestwood Road, according to police. One person was killed and at least one other taken to the hospital in critical condition. The cause of the crash is still under investigation.
Hidden reasons behind increased crashes
Lt. Street did not have details of all of the crashes, but said he worked in Northern Utah County yesterday, and has never seen that much traffic on a Sunday. He believes a lot of people were taking advantage of a nice weekend and the loosening of COVID-19-related restrictions.
He said between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. he responded to over a dozen crashes on I-15. Many of which were caused by people driving too fast and not leaving enough space between themselves and the car in front of them.
“At a bare minimum, on perfect roads, you must stay at least two seconds behind another car,” Street said. “If you’re driving 70 mph, you’ll cover 200 feet in that two seconds.”
And when road conditions are not perfect — as in rain, snow, or reduced visibility — you’ll need to leave even more room.
There also appears to be a pattern to fatal crashes. The latest numbers from UHP shows 60% have males between the ages of 18 and 33 behind the wheel. 22% percent involve female drivers. Of the 83 fatalities this year, 18 of them were determined to be the direct result of driving too fast.
Impairment or distracted driving is another big reason for accidents
On Saturday evening, a 57-year-old motorcyclist is in critical condition after he was hit by another car. South Salt Lake Police say the motorcyclist was making an illegal U-turn on 3300 South near 1000 West when the car hit him.
All of this is just a week before Utah’s 100 Deadliest Days officially begins. Lt. Street said the UHP isn’t sure what to expect in terms of fatalities.
Logic would have suggested with fewer cars on the roads over the last two months, there would be fewer fatalities. But just the opposite happened.
Street is reminding the public to “be mindful while on the roads and make sure they are safe behind the wheel.” That includes buckling up, driving at or below the speed limit, not being impaired — whether through drinking, on a cell phone, or too tired — and leaving lots of space between you and another car, even while in rush hour traffic.
The Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) and UHP are teaming up again this year for the ‘Zero Fatalities‘ campaign. The newest public safety ads will launch this Wednesday, May 20.
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