Back to basics: What one Utah driver’s ed teacher wants you to know

Apr 19, 2023, 5:01 PM | Updated: Apr 20, 2023, 5:46 am

BOUNTIFUL, Utah — As more drivers hit the road and take advantage of the warmer weather, Utah Department of Transportation officials say we can’t lose sight of Utah’s zero fatalities goal.

That’s why educators and safety advocates are taking a new approach called “Back to Basics.” It’s a reminder to Utah’s newest drivers of the importance of driving without distractions. It also targets drivers who have been behind the wheel for decades. No matter how much experience Utah drivers have, UDOT warns against forgetting basic safety steps.

Chad Lythgoe, who’s been teaching driver’s ed for decades at Woods Cross High School, said safety begins before drivers even turn the car on. He said all Utah drivers need to slow down and play it safe on the roads.

“It requires everybody — it requires semi (truck) drivers, motorcycle riders, pedestrians, bikes… to have a collective focus on the things that are safe,” Lythoge said.

As a teacher of young students, Lythgoe can’t bear to lose any students on the road. He believes Utah’s goal of zero fatalities should be foremost in all Utah drivers’ minds.

“We want it to be a top priority to lower it and to focus and not really accept anything until we get to that zero,” he said.

Lythgoe encouraged people to make sure they lock their car when they first get in, adjust their mirrors so they can see the road clearly and check their mirrors so they can see the cars behind them and on their side. Lastly, he urged drivers to check their surroundings and buckle up before they pull out. He said it’s those simple steps that often get overlooked.

He said most of his students pick up bad habits from their parents, reminding parents to think twice before they reach for their phone to text behind the wheel. He said it’s important for parents to consider what kind of example they want to set for their child.

UDOT is also reminding drivers during National Work Zone Safety Awareness Week to slow down while driving through construction work zones. Last year, there were 1,297 work zone-related crashes on Utah roads and 11 people were killed in those crashes. They say slowing down not only protects Utah drivers but also construction crews.

This is an especially timely message since more construction projects begin during the summer months since higher temperatures are required for asphalt paving. UDOT officials said this is unfortunately when more crashes also occur. Last year, there were 138 crashes in June and 136 crashes in September.

“We are doing everything we can to make our work zones as safe as possible,” Lisa Wilson, UDOT deputy director for engineering and operations, said. “We need your help to ensure everyone makes it home safely every day.”

UDOT released the following list of major construction projects either already underway or scheduled to start in 2023:

  • Bangerter Highway: Salt Lake County – $378.5 million
    • This project will construct four new freeway-style interchanges with on- and off-ramps at 2700 West, 13400 South, 9800 South, and 4700 South, eliminating stoplights at four more intersections for drivers on Bangerter Highway. Construction is scheduled to start this summer.
  • 5600 South: Weber County – $238 million
    • UDOT will reconstruct the 5600 South interchange on I-15 in Roy near Hill Air Force Base, and widen 5600 South from three lanes to five lanes between 1900 West and 3500 West. This project will also build a new trail system for pedestrians and cyclists. These improvements will help area residents get around more easily, whether they are walking, biking or driving. Construction is scheduled to start this summer.
  • 9000 South: Salt Lake County – $56.6 million
    • Crews will widen 9000 South between Redwood Road and 700 West from five to seven lanes, replace pavement on 9000 South from 700 West to State Street, and add bike lanes to the road. This project will improve the condition of the road and enhance safety for drivers, and help traffic flow more efficiently. Construction is scheduled to start this summer.
  • West Davis Highway: Davis County – $750 million
    • UDOT’s largest current project is building a new four-lane divided highway from Farmington to West Point along with 10 miles of new trails. It will help residents in western Davis County get to and from I-15 more easily and safely. Construction started in 2021.
  • Interstate 15 interchange and widening: Washington City – $73.6 million
    • Work is underway to add a new interchange on I-15 at Main Street in Washington City, near St. George. This project will also widen I-15 to create a new travel lane in each direction, and will improve traffic flow and access to Washington City from I-15. Construction started this spring.
  • State Route 108: Davis County – $71 million
    • Crews will widen SR-108 between West Point and Clinton, adding a new travel lane in each direction along with a new multi-use path. This project will improve safety and accessibility for pedestrians and cyclists, and helps traffic flow more smoothly. Construction is scheduled to start this spring.
  • Redwood Road: Taylorsville – $8.5 million
    • UDOT will widen Redwood Road in Taylorsville from 6200 South to the I-215 interchange, and add lanes to the eastbound and westbound on-ramps to I-215. Doing this will help drivers get through this area more efficiently and safely. Construction started earlier this month.
  • U.S. Highway 40: Wasatch County – $9.9 million
    • This project replaces sections of concrete pavement north of Heber City as well as the bridge driving surface at the Mayflower exit. This maintenance work will improve the condition of the road and extend the life of the bridge. Construction started in 2022.
  • Pleasant Grove Boulevard: Pleasant Grove – $15.9 million
    • UDOT is widening Pleasant Grove Boulevard to make it easier to access northbound I-15. This project also widens the Pleasant Grove Boulevard/North County Boulevard intersection to add new turning lanes, installs new traffic signals, and repaves sections of North County Boulevard. This will improve traffic flow and enhance safety for drivers in a fast-developing area of Utah County. Construction started earlier this spring.
  • I-15 Lane Striping: Utah County – $11.6 million
    • Crews are replacing or improving lane markings on I-15 from Payson to Lehi, which will make these markings easier for drivers to see in all conditions. This is the first phase of a larger project that will eventually include many other sections of freeway along the Wasatch Front. Construction started earlier this spring.
  • I-15 Bridge Repairs: Juab County – $17.8 million
    • This maintenance project will replace the driving surface on two bridges and complete various repairs on nine others near Nephi. It will enhance safety and provide a smoother ride for drivers. Construction is scheduled to start this spring.
  • S.R. 132: Sanpete County – $8.7 million
    • UDOT will add new passing lanes in both directions on SR-132 north of Fountain Green to improve safety for drivers. Construction is scheduled to start this spring.
  • U.S. 191: Grand County – $13.3 million
    • Crews will add new passing lanes on US-191 north of Moab and improve access to the new Utahraptor State Park. This project will make a popular recreation area more accessible to Utahns as well as out-of-state visitors. Construction is scheduled to start this summer.

For the latest information on highway construction, traffic and weather conditions, visit the UDOT Traffic website or download the UDOT Traffic app for iPhone or Android.

KSL is committed to reaching the goal of zero fatalities on Utah’s roads and invites all Utah drivers and their loved ones to take the Road to Zero Pledge to save lives.

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Back to basics: What one Utah driver’s ed teacher wants you to know