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SALT LAKE CITY — The number of people dying behind the wheel in Utah is down for the second year in a row, but there were still 264 fatalities on Utah roads in 2018.
Emily Prior is one of many heartbroken widows who lost a loved one on Utah roads last year.
“It's hard to not have him here and be able to walk through life with him hand in hand,” she expressed after her husband, Tyrel Prior, died in a motorcycle crash last August.
She misses him every day. “His sense of humor, his smile, his heart,” Emily Prior described.
Tyrel Prior was on his way home from work when a woman turning left onto I-15 didn’t see him from her truck. Tyrel Prior was struck and died from his injuries.
“Just watch for them. It takes another 2 seconds,” Emily Prior begs of drivers.
Tyrel Prior is not alone. Last year, 47 motorcyclists were killed — the highest number Utah has ever seen, according to Zero Fatalities. Sadly, that's not the only problem.
Utah Department of Transportation deputy director for engineering and operations Jason Davis explained the importance of drivers staying alert.
“People are using their cell phones when they shouldn't. And they're driving distracted and it's causing crashes and it's taking lives,” he said.
Davis said distracted and drowsy driving continues to be a substantial contributor to the problem. He said 94% of crashes happen because of human error.
Utah Highway Patrol Col. Michael Rapich also urges people to be responsible.
“Over 90% or fatal crashes come down to choices. Well, that's choice to put on the seat belt. Well, that's a choice to drink and drive, whether it's a choice to be driving much faster than everyone else, and aggressive driver,” Rapich said.
UDOT reported 17 fatalities due to distracted driving, although Rapich explained those numbers are underrepresented since it is difficult to always identify distractions in fatal crashes.
While UDOT is proud to announce a 3.3% decrease in roadway fatalities from 2017, it is still calling for increase measure of safety from all drivers.
Davis said the decision is in each driver’s hands.
“And if you make a good decision, put your cell phone down, you're probably going to save some lives,” he said.
With a little more work, Davis said it’s possible.
"We had more days without a fatality last year, 187 versus days that a fatality occurred … If we can educate the drivers and they make good decisions, then that number is going to go down, our fatality number is going to go down and that zero number is possible to achieve," he explained.
Last year, Utah only saw 50 seatbelt fatalities compared to the 87 people who died without a seatbelt on in 2017.
“That's probably the biggest single-year decrease that we've seen — at least as long as I've been paying attention," Rapich said. "That is huge."