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SALT LAKE CITY — A rash of fatal accidents on Utah's roads has the Utah Department of Transportation reminding drivers be careful as they travel this summer.
On average, highway fatalities go up 35 percent in the summer months, and there have been seven fatalities over the past 10 days in Salt Lake County. That increase is attributed to more of cars on the roads, but drivers are also going much faster, which is a leading factor to more deaths.
"During the summer months, fatalities go up because the speeds are very high," said UDOT spokeswoman Tania Mashburn.
Just last week, Brett Blanco was riding a motorcycle with his son in Provo Canyon when an SUV hit them. His son was wearing a helmet and escaped with minor injuries, but Blanco didn't survive.
"This has been really hard," said Barbara Brooks, Blanco's cousin. "Brett was so young and had such a long life to live, and he is not going to be able to see his kids grow up."
Blanco was one of five people who died in auto accidents in Utah over Memorial Day weekend.
"It happened before you could even react. It was a head-on crash," said Shawn Winters, survived a car accident two weeks ago in Saratoga Springs.
Winters suffered a broken hand in the accident and still needs knee surgery. He said he believes the only reason he is alive is because he was wearing his seat belt.
Winders now has a new perspective about distracted drivers.
"It's not worth checking your phone or driving 10 miles an hour faster," he said. "Is it that big of a deal to slow down and wear your seat belt?"
Statistics from Utah's Zero Fatalities campaign show the best defense to avoid a fatal crash is to obey the speed limit and wear a seat belt.
"It is the easiest thing you can do when you get into your car," Mashburn said. "You might not be able to prevent the crash, but you might survive if you wear your seat belt."
So far in Utah, 60 people have died in traffic accidents in 2013, which is 20 fewer than the same time last year. UDOT is optimistic it is trending down, but behind every fatality is a heartbroken family.
"Just watch out when you are on the road," Brooks said. "Be very careful. Don't take anything for granted. Brett is going to be very, very missed."
Contributing: Peter Samore