SPANISH FORK -- U.S. Highway 6 through Spanish Fork Canyon has a reputation as one of the deadliest highways in the country. But is that reputation still fair?
New numbers from the Utah Department of Transportation show deaths on that stretch of road have gone down significantly over the past few years. Department officials attribute that decrease to improvements they've made on the road over the years.
For example, that loud, vibrating noise you hear when driving over the rumble strips is hard to ignore, but that's the point.
"They get your attention [when] you might be drifting off the road," says Utah Highway Patrol Sgt. David Rumfield.
Rumfield has certainly seen his fair share of rumble strips over the years. He never knew how much safer they could make a road until he saw them built into Highway 6 through Spanish Fork Canyon.
"It's a lot safer for everyone," Rumfield says.
That's not all. Concrete barriers, widening the road from two to four lanes, and the addition of more signs showing how fast drivers are going have all made the highway safer.
UDOT has spent $90 million in just the past 10 years to try and save lives.
"It's a high priority for us to maintain that road and make it as safe a road as we possibly can," UDOT spokesman Scott Thompson says.
The numbers prove it. Last year, six people died on Highway 6 -- the same as in 2008. Nine people died in 2007, 7 in 2006; but in 2005, 16 people died. And in 1997, there were 23 deaths.
It was in 2005 when UDOT put together a report on all the crashes and deaths. The goals were:
- to reduce fatal crossover accidents
- to reduce the speed limit
- to build passing lanes
- to create four lanes instead of two
After making all those upgrades, the deaths have decreased.
"It's a difficult roadway, in that narrow canyon, to make a lot of improvements. But where we can, we've tried to make all the improvements that are possible," Thompson says.
Of course, even though UDOT is excited about those lower numbers for Highway 6, the goal is still zero fatalities.
"We still have accidents out there. It's still a treacherous roadway during the winter season," Thompson says.
It may be treacherous, but it's much safer than ever before.
UDOT managers say as they receive more funding for major projects, more work will be done to make U.S. Highway 6 even safer.