SALT LAKE CITY — The Beehive State saw just one road fatality this Fourth of July. Statistically speaking this is no small feat.
According to a report by the Utah Department of Public Safety, Independence Day is one of the deadliest holidays for Utah motorists. However, officials say progress is underway with the past two July 4 holiday weekends seeing one traffic death each.
Utah Highway Patrol spokesman Sgt. Nick Street credited the drop in road deaths in part to enforcement efforts as well as public safety information campaigns such as Zero Fatalities.
"I think we're at just a good culmination of enforcement, safety and public mindset," he said, noting that this quarter has also seen a significant decrease in alcohol-related crashes.
The highway patrol reported just 63 DUI arrests this holiday weekend. There were 4,908 traffic stops, 2,906 speeding violations, 521 seat belt violations and 193 investigated crashes that had 93 injuries.
"The biggest problem we see is people not giving themselves enough time to react," Street said. He added that injuries and crashes are most often due to "people not doing what they should be doing behind the wheel."
This includes not wearing their seat belts and not paying attention to driving, he said.
Calmer holiday for firefighters
Firefighters also had a calmer holiday.
Though statewide numbers are not yet in, the Unified Fire Authority reported only 32 responses to incidents. That number was 73 last year and 105 in 2017.
State Fire Marshal Coy Porter said these numbers are pretty telling of what incident reports for the state might look like. He noted that the number of calls he received to complain about fireworks was down to three this year, whereas last year it was about a dozen.
"Oftentimes, we'll hear from one or two veterans that say they have to hide in their basement for a couple days because they struggle with PTSD," he said, noting that this year he only received a couple of calls from individuals complaining "about their neighbors having an oversized show in their street."
Porter said this is partially due to the cooler and wetter weather putting a damper on fireworks and also reducing fire hazards. He said it could also be due to increased firework restrictions and Utahns coming to terms with the dangers that fireworks pose.
"I think people's sense of wildland is a little bit more astute," he said, adding that last year's devastating wildfires in California — although "not necessarily fireworks related" — may have cause Utahns to become "a little more aware" of fire hazards.