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SALT LAKE CITY — Deaths on Utah roads jumped from 2017 during the recent 100 Deadliest Days of Summer, authorities said Tuesday.
One hundred and two people died in crashes on Utah highways during a 102-day stretch from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day, according to Utah Highway Patrol Sgt. Nick Street. That’s a 17 percent increase from 87 fatalities in 2017 during the same stretch.
It’s also the highest number of fatalities on Utah’s roads since 110 deaths were recorded during the 109-day stretch of the "deadliest days" in 2015, according to Department of Public Safety data.
Crashes believed to be caused by impairment over the Labor Day weekend, including a fiery wrong-way crash on I-15 Friday morning that killed three people, closed out the 102-day stretch. However, Street said speeding, distracted driving, people not using seat belts and motorcyclists not wearing helmets all contributed to the spike in fatal crashes this summer.
“It just comes back to the basics,” he said while urging drivers to slow down, pay attention to the roadway, wear their seat belt and for motorcyclists to wear their helmets. Street also reminded those who feel impaired to not drive under any circumstances.
Street believes the majority of fatal crashes could have been prevented by following those safety standards.
“Most fatal crashes aren’t just the result of one minor poor decision. It’s rare we see that,” he added. “We always see the combination — impaired driving and not wearing a seat belt or, as a motorcycle rider, not wearing a helmet and then somebody turns in front of them or fails to see them.”
In all, Street said there have been 170 fatal crashes through Sept. 3., resulting in 185 deaths this year.
The state total is on pace for about 275 fatalities on roadways in 2018, if the amount of fatalities on roads continues at the pace it has been on during the first two-thirds of the year. There were 272 fatal crashes in 2017, according to Department of Public Safety data.
Motorcyclist deaths have been one of the largest rises officials have seen in 2018. There have been at least 40 motorcyclist fatalities since the start of the year, compared to 39 in all of 2017. Emily Prior, whose husband, Tyrel, died in a motorcycle crash Aug. 26, asked for motorists to pay attention for motorcyclists on the roadway to prevent a crash similar to how her husband died.
“Just watch for them,” she told KSL TV on Sunday. “It takes another 2 seconds.”
Now that Utah is moving into the final third of the calendar year, Street said motorists should start preparing for more inclement weather and harsher road conditions.
“As we’re nearing the end of the year and the weather starts getting dicey, we want to remind people to keep a safe distance,” he said. “Move over from emergency vehicles, and if they’re involved in a minor collision where they’re not hurt or their vehicle is still drivable, please move off any roadway as quickly as possible.”
Editor's note: Utah Highway Patrol initially said 100 people died during the 100 Deadliest Days, but corrected that number to 102 on Wednesday.