Two UDOT employees are sharing their story of being hit on I-15, to warn other drivers to be more careful especially during Utah’s 100 Deadliest Days.
Kurt O’Neal and Colby Larsen were dispatched to remove a big piece of metal near 7200 South when they were involved in an accident. O’Neal pulled over in their big maintenance truck, with the lights flashing. Larsen got out to pick up the metal. Then, O’Neal said he felt a car slam into his truck.
As he looked over to see what had happened to Larsen, he was grateful to see him standing unharmed against the barrier.
“If he hadn’t looked the second time – he had already picked up the piece of debris, he was already walking back to the truck to toss it in – if he hadn’t looked the second time, he may very well have gotten smushed. And then I would have been looking at the corpse of my friend.”
It appeared the driver of the car that hit them was looking left to merge, but never looked ahead or to the right before changing lanes.
O’Neal says safety is as simple as being aware.
“When I’m driving, I don’t look at my phone. Because I spend all day on the side of the road, and the amount of times people drift – it happens way too often, it happens all the time,” he said.
He shared the story as the Department of Transportation and the Utah Highway Patrol shared the statistics of how the 100 Deadliest Days on Utah roads between Memorial Day and Labor Day.
UDOT said there were 21 percent more deaths on Utah’s roads this summer than last. During the same period of 2020, 102 people died on Utah’s roads, compared to 61 in 2019.
“Last summer was a bright spot,” said UDOT spokesman John Gleason. “We had fewer fatalities than anyone could remember during the summer period. It shows we can do this. We can make smart decisions behind the wheel.”
Summer of 2020 saw more speeders than in previous years, too.
Gleason says the year is not over, and people can decide to buckle up, and not speed, or drive distracted or drowsy.
“In a world of things we feel we cannot control, these are things we can control,” said Gleason.
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