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RIVERTON — This summer the Utah Department of Transportation and the Utah Highway Patrol are campaigning to make the 100 deadliest days on the road — historically between Memorial Day and Labor Day — the 100 safest days on the road.
One hundred students gathered Wednesday at Riverton High School's gymnasium to hold signs with messages like, "Tailgating is the adult version of bullying" and "Drive like your mom is watching."
"If we can create those good driving behaviors from the get-go, then that's going to increase safety on our roads," said UDOT public information officer John Gleason.
Contrary to popular belief, more accidents occur on Utah roads during the summer than during the winter. During the winter months, people are focusing more of their attention on the roads, Gleason said. But the opposite is often true during the summer.
Drivers are more likely to make poor decisions during the summer months because they are lulled into a false sense of security and become easily distracted or drive at faster speeds, he said.
"In the winter months your focus is always on the road because you're dealing with the winter weather and you can't just afford to have your attention off the roads," said Gleason. "We need to make the same commitment in the summer months and help make summer months the safest time on the roads."
The summer months should be the safest days on the road, as roads are in better shape and people aren't dealing with poor weather, he said. But last year, 103 people lost their lives on Utah roads during the summer months.
"We need to get that number down to zero," Gleason said.
Utah Highway Patrol Sgt. Nick Street said it's important to instill in youth the need to buckle up and slow down and not drive impaired, distracted or drowsy.
"We're very impressionable when we're young, and hearing that you need to buckle up and you need to make sure that you're not speeding is one thing because that behavior can change over time," Street said. "Being a part of something cool like this can definitely influence their behavior as they come into adulthood."
Street said distracted driving can be decreased and recommends drivers to turn off their phones when they drive, set their phones on Do Not Disturb mode or leave them in the glove compartment.
"We are always trying to increase our efforts to change behavior," Street said.
According to Gleason, there's an average of one fatality on Utah roads per day.
This year, from Jan. 1 to April 30, there were 65 fatalities on Utah roads, according to a UDOT statewide traffic fatality report, and 153 crashes resulted in serious injuries. In 2018, a total of 261 traffic fatalities occurred in Utah.
"It only takes a moment of distraction to take your attention off the road and the results can be catastrophic," Gleason said.