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Utah highway fatalities on track to be lowest in decades

By Eric Nelson and Jed Boal | Posted - Dec 13th, 2012 @ 10:37pm


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SALT LAKE CITY — A new report shows overall traffic fatalities on the nation's highways are at the lowest levels since 1959.

Though there are more drivers on the roads today and they drive more miles highway fatalities keep dropping. The U.S. Department of Transportation reports in 2011, highway deaths fell to 32,367 — a nearly 2 percent decrease from 2010.

Dwayne Baird with the Utah Department of Public Safety said Utah has seen a steady decline of fatal crash numbers over the past several years and could dip below a number not seen since 1974.

That year Utah had 228 traffic related deaths. As of the Thursday, Utah is at 198. In 1959 Utah had 205 deaths. In 2011, there were 243 fatalities.

"We would like not to have one fatality now for the rest of the year," Baird said. "If we can keep (the number of fatalities) below 200, that would be numbers that we haven't seen since 1959. And understand, the population of this state since 1959 has probably tripled."

Utah Highway Patrol Superintendent Daniel Fuhr described how that can be made possible.

"As people continue to buckle up, slow down, not be distracted behind the wheel, and refrain from driving under the influence, Utah is on track for one of the safest years in more than five decades."

Baird credits concentrated enforcement efforts and increased public education for Utah's declining numbers.

Utah Traffic-related Deaths

  • 1959 - 205
  • 1974 - 228
  • First 2 weeks of December 2012 - 196

He also noted that even one traffic fatality is too many. He said the goal is zero fatalities, through 100 percent compliance with wearing seat belts, not driving under the influence or driving while drowsy, and obeying the speed limit.

"I think if we can get people to do those things, there'll be a time in this state when we can see zero fatalities," he said.

Baird also reminded drivers to slow down and drive with caution in winter conditions.

Email: enelson@ksl.com

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