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Upward Trend in Fatal Highway Accidents

Upward Trend in Fatal Highway Accidents



Estimated read time: 2-3 minutes

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John Hollenhorst ReportingA sudden upward trend in fatal highway accidents over the last few months is raising concern. UDOT officials say they can't explain it, but it's a tragic change of direction they didn't want to see.

The official state goal of "Zero Fatalities" will presumably never be reached, but the traffic death trend was heading in the right direction, until things started turning sour in April.

Robert Hull with UDOT tells us, "We're sitting at 129 right now." That's versus 117 at the same time last year. "It is a setback. Since the year 2000, Utah has realized a 23 percent reduction in their fatalities."

It's possible there is no real trend, just the usual statistical variation, aggravated by one particularly nasty crash. In April, eight undocumented aliens died near Bluff. Not one of the eight was wearing a seatbelt, a factor underlying more than half of Utah's fatalities this year.

Hull says, "Fifty-five percent of them can be attributed to improper use of safety restraints."

Yet, studies show 88 percent of us do use them. "When you look at that 12 percent of those individuals not using their seat belts, they're over-contributing to the number of fatalities that we're having," Hull said.

Educational programs may be helping keep motorcyclists from dying. Motorcycle sales have been increasing rapidly.

Brian Brown, with Intermountain Harley Davidson, says, "This year so far, it's been absolutely amazing."

Motorcycle registration is up 30 percent the last two years; yet motorcycle deaths are holding fairly even, about 24 a year. It's up slightly so far this year with 13 motorcycle deaths; six of those riders were not wearing helmets.

Dale Bell is with the Utah Rider Education. He says, "All these folks are wearing helmets. We spend a lot of time talking about riding gear and the benefits of helmets."

If there is a trend, it may turn around again, but the advice is always the same; Buckle up. Wear a helmet. Pay attention when you're on the road

Utah's worst month was April, when 35 people died in vehicle accidents. That accounts for nearly a third of the deaths this year.

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