SALT LAKE CITY — Memorial Day marks the unofficial beginning of summer and the start of Utah’s "100 Deadliest Days," where fatal car crashes typically double. The Utah Department of Transportation and the Utah Highway Patrol got together with the Herrera family, who lost their daughter five years ago.
In February 2013, Maria Herrera was driving home from work when she was killed instantly upon impact. She was speeding and didn’t have enough time to slow down.
Maria Herrera was only 18. She had just graduated high school and was in her first year of college at Weber State University, studying to become a social worker. She wanted to help abused children.
Thursday, her parents celebrated Maria Herrera’s 24th birthday by sharing a message of safety with other drivers.
“Today she is celebrating because of what we are doing,” said Martin Herrera, Maria's father.
Maria Herrera loved balloons. On this day, they blew up 90 balloons in honor of each life lost on Utah roads last summer. Martin Herrera urged drivers to be safe this summer.
“The consequences of the tragedy are devastating … Think twice before you decide to speed or send that text,” he said.
Utah Highway Patrol Lt. Todd Royce said the percentage of fatalities in the summer goes up 45 percent. “We average right around one fatal per day,” he added.
With more people on the road during summer months, Royce invites drivers to correct their bad habits.
“See if you can fix it because, in effect, you’re saving yourself and your possibly saving someone else’s life,” he said.
Martin Herrera and his wife wish they had one more chance. “Our message today is listen to Maria’s story,” Martin Herrera said.
Royce said UHP will have 267 extra trooper shifts on the highway this Memorial Day weekend, looking for drivers who are texting, driving aggressively, or under the influence.