UHP and ER doctor: Motorists, pedestrians need to work together to reduce fatalities

Oct 27, 2022, 5:44 PM | Updated: 7:42 pm

MURRAY, Utah — Utah is on pace to set the annual record for the greatest number of fatal auto-pedestrian crashes.

To catch people’s attention and change this trend, the Utah Highway Patrol joined an emergency room doctor at Intermountain Healthcare to talk about the devastation those crashes cause.

The veteran emergency room physician said most auto-pedestrian crashes are preventable if people just paid attention to their surroundings when they are near traffic.

“These are devastating injuries. These deaths change families,” said Dr. Harland Hayes, who has been an emergency room physician for 16 years.

He calls the rise in patients hit by cars and trucks heartbreaking.

“Some of them are mild injuries,” he said. “But we see serious, life-threatening injuries, and sadly, we see quite a bit of death. They devastate families and patients have a lot of suffering.

So far this year, there have been 43 fatal auto-pedestrian crashes in Utah. Last year, 45 auto-pedestrian deaths all year. The record was 49, set in 2013.

“When we work together, these crashes are 100% preventable,” said UHP Sgt. Cameron Roden.

There’s less daylight this time of year, and that’s one reason for the rise in auto-pedestrian fatalities during the fall and winter. But the Utah Highway Patrol thinks an increase in risky driving is really to blame for the long-term trend.

“Driving behaviors such as impaired driving and distracted driving, and a lot of those things, are going to lead to severe crashes when we see that out on the roads,” Roden said.

Pedestrians and motorists need to look for each other and make eye contact at crosswalks and elsewhere. Drivers should always stop for a pedestrian, even if the car has the right of way. For pedestrians, distracted walking is just as dangerous as distracted driving, and a pedestrian should never assume that they have the right of way.

“Life was good good and life changed for her, and life has never been the same,” Hayes said as he showed the CT scans from a 17-year-old girl hit in a crosswalk several years ago.

Dr. Harland Hayes, an emergency physician with Intermountain Healthcare, shows a CT scan from a 17-year-old girl who was hit and severely injured in a crosswalk three years ago. He says her life has never been the same.

She had multiple facial fractures, bleeding on her brain, and a crushed chest, and she still continues to deal with headaches that affect her work. The doctor said she will never be the same.

“When you have a car that strikes a person, at times, there is no recovery. At times, there isn’t permanent recovery,” Hayes said.

He said whether you’re the pedestrian or the driver, everyone needs to take a step back and reassess the way we act on the road. People need to put away distractions and focus on safety.

With Halloween approaching, reflective tape and glow sticks are top of mind, and not a bad idea, whenever anyone is out walking near traffic.

Sgt. Cameron Roden with the Utah Highway Patrol shares some highly reflective tape and flashlights that are not only good for kids on Halloween, but for anyone who walks near traffic at night.

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UHP and ER doctor: Motorists, pedestrians need to work together to reduce fatalities