ROAD TO ZERO
How one Utah city is trying to curb trend of fatal crashes
Jun 18, 2022, 8:46 AM
OGDEN, Utah – The number of traffic fatalities in Utah marked a nearly 20-year high in 2021. When looking at the number of deadly crashes over the past several years, KSL TV discovered Ogden has more than any other city in the state.
Since January 2018, 1,250 people have died in crashes across the state of Utah, according to data from the Utah Department of Public Safety’s Highway Safety Office. As of June 17, 2022, Salt Lake County has seen the most fatalities with 329, followed by Utah County with 155, and Weber County with 89.
But if you look even closer, city by city, Ogden has had 44 deadly crashes in that same period, followed by West Valley City with 33, Salt Lake City with 30, and Provo with 25.
“I’m blown away with the disregard for public safety in regard to just our traffic laws,” said Lt. Cameron Stiver from the Ogden City Police Department.
Stiver is over field operations for the Ogden City Police Department, he’s been with OPD for 22 years and may know Ogden’s roads better than anyone. He says the high number of fatal crashes in Ogden is concerning. He can quickly identify the deadly hot spots in the city: the multi-lane roads that cut through the city.
“Our Wall Avenue, or Washington Boulevard, 12th Street, 30th Street. These big corridors have a lot of traffic on them,” he said.
Through an open records request, KSL TV looked at the time, location and cause of each of the 44 deadly crashes within the city and discovered 16 of those fatal crashes occurred on Washington Blvd, and 13 of them occurred between 1:00-11:00 p.m.
“Our population increases during the day because all of the businesses that we have here that have operation, and later in the day they’re all going home,” said Stiver.
According to state data, excessive speed was the cause of 17 of Ogden’s 44 fatal crashes.
“One thing we’ve done in this city is we’ve created a multi-jurisdictional task force, this is an investigation team where we go out and investigate serious and fatal crashes, we try to find out why,” said Stiver. “Why is this happening, where is this going on, and then we share that with the state and city engineers to try and fix our roadway problems. Whether that be a dangerous curve, maybe it is the speed limit is too high.”
Along with excessive speeding in Ogden, drivers have been involved in 13 fatal pedestrian crashes. In just the past six months, the state has installed two new crosswalks on Wall Avenue near the Ogden Rescue Mission, an area that has seen several fatalities. The challenge Ogden Police faces now is getting people to properly use them.
“On Wall, that’s where we see a lot of our pedestrian accidents, and the state has come in and put in better crosswalks in these areas and we’ve got out and done special enforcement through crosswalk details saying, ‘Hey, this is a new crosswalk, it’s different than any crosswalk you’ve seen because of the flashing red and yellow lights, pay attention, you’re supposed to wait,’” he said.
With the increase in deadly crashes over the past 4 ½ years, Ogden Police are stepping up speed enforcement on multi-lane roadways, using social media to educate the public, and reaching out to younger drivers though school resource officers.
“If I could tell the youth, it’s just to slow down. Be careful, you guys are so young, you have everything going for you, just take it easy,” said Stiver. “I know you have freedom but guess what, don’t let that freedom get taken away from you by getting in an accident. Just be careful and slowdown.”
Keeping the roads safe is a personal mission for Stiver, who has heard every excuse in the book from drivers caught speeding.
“’I need to use the restroom,’ that’s a big one. ‘I’m late for a church appointment,’” he laughs. “You’re not going to get a get out jail free card because you’re going to the temple.”
While he can appreciate the creativity of the excuses, Stiver says they don’t work. What he hopes drivers remember next time they feel the urge to speed is that with each deadly crash there is a family he must notify.
“My worst, worst part of this job is going to somebody’s house and telling them that their family member has passed away. It’s something that stays with you, you won’t ever forget it. You close your eyes and unfortunately those nightmares happen.”
After nearly two decades investigating fatal crashes, Stiver says he has the same thought walking away from each fatal crash in Ogden: each one was preventable.
“If they had just worn their seatbelt, if they had just slowed down, if they weren’t driving while intoxicated, if they weren’t diving while high, it could have been prevented, it could have been prevented,” he said.