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Utah on pace to hit record number of crash deaths

SALT LAKE CITY — If you think it seems more dangerous out on Utah’s highways and interstates lately, you’re right.

The United States is on pace for the greatest number of highway fatalities in 15 years.

Utah is also on pace for one of its deadliest years in the past two decades. 

“It’s a crisis,” said John Gleason, a spokesman with the Utah Department of Transportation. “It’s happening here and it’s happening all across the country.” 

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, highway deaths rose nearly 18.4% the first six months of 2021.

Utah fatalities this year are also on pace to exceed last year’s total of 276 motorists killed.

Over the weekend, four people were killed in three separate crashes.

“Very sad, very tragic weekend,” said Sgt. Cameron Roden with the Utah Highway Patrol.

So far, 262 Utahns have died in highway crashes in 2021. That’s 20 more than at this time last year. 

“It’s something that we’re greatly concerned with, and it’s deeply troubling because so many of these are preventable,” said Gleason. 

What are contributing factors?

In 2020, Utah had a record 138 impaired driving fatalities. There are already 92 of those this year. 

“Speed tends to be one of our highest ones,” Roden said, highlighting the most dangerous behaviors on the road. “Aggressive driving, impaired driving, distracted driving, fatigue still plays a factor into that.” 

As with the national numbers, there is no one clear-cut cause. 

According to the NHTSA, behavioral research found more people ignoring the speed limit and fewer people using seat belts.

Public health experts say the sudden rise is linked to the pandemic, which left people feeling trapped and stressed out and looking for ways to escape. 

“There is still so much that is playing on people’s psyche,” said Gleason. “There’s frustration, there’s aggression that’s happening in the world today. You just have to make sure that you don’t take that out onto the road. It’s costing people their lives.” 

Gleason said we all need to make the right decisions behind the wheel to help stop the deaths.

“It does take law enforcement and the public together in order to make the change,” said Roden.

Locally and nationally, safety advocates urged everyone all to slow down, put the distractions away and share the road safely. 

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