SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Highway Patrol is out with additional forces Memorial Day weekend, a holiday that starts off the deadliest 100 days of the year on the road.
Troopers covered much of the state this weekend to remind people of the little things they can do to avoid a ticket and get to their destination safely. Sgt. Blaine Robbins with the Utah Highway Patrol said people tend to forget they are not driving on a racetrack during the holidays.
"They're going on vacation. They don't have to work," he said. "There's a lot of excitement that's involved."
UHP reports more than 1,500 people died in crashes on Utah highways from 2007 to 2012. Robbins said speed is a major concern for troopers. He sees a lot of speed violations on holidays.
"People are thinking of one thing. They're thinking of getting to their destination," he said. "I think they just kind of lose focus on what it is that they're doing."
When it comes to speed, UHP statistics report some holidays are worse than others. Over the past 10 years, the 4th of July has had the highest rates of roadway deaths. 2008 was the worst year. Twelve people lost their lives that holiday, out of total of 276 Utah road fatalities that whole year.
Utah had seen a steady decline in fatal accidents over Memorial Day weekend. Last year, there were none. But so far this holiday weekend, four people have died in auto crashes in Utah. In the last five years, speed was the main factor in crashes and deaths over 43 percent of the time.
"Speed kills," Robbins said. "The faster you go, the harder it is to negotiate a problem. If you do into a crash, it is going to be a lot more difficult to survive."
While there were 26 fewer road deaths last year than in 2011, Robbins said Utahns are more than just a list of statistics.
"(To) explain to them that a loved one isn't going to be coming home, it's very difficult for the troopers involved, the EMS people that are involved and of course the family," he said.
From the beginning of 2013, the Utah Department of Transportation reports 53 traffic fatalities in Utah. Going into memorial day weekend, deaths on Utah roads were trending lower than the same time last year.