SALT LAKE CITY — The number of vehicles traveling on Utah’s freeways has been down since the state issued its stay safe, stay home proclamation in March.
And while that has led to an overall decrease in the number of accidents Utah Highway Patrol troopers have responded to, it hasn’t equated into a decrease in the number of fatal crashes or DUI arrests.
According to statistics from the Utah Department of Transportation, the number of vehicles on I-15 in Salt Lake County steadily decreased from March 15 to April 5, reaching a low at one point of just 50% of the regular number of vehicles on the road.
Monday is the heaviest travel day for I-15 in Salt Lake County, according to UDOT. This past Monday, traffic was at 75% of normal, which was higher than on April 13 and April 6, according to UDOT statistics, but still well below the traffic volume on March 16.
Not surprisingly, having fewer cars on the road has resulted in fewer crashes. UHP Lt. Nick Street said troopers responded to 1,452 crashes in March, compared to 2,291 crashes in March 2019 and 2,107 crashes in March 2018.
From April 1 through Tuesday morning, troopers responded to 619 crashes, compared to 1,394 during the same time period the year before and 1,150 in 2018.
But despite having fewer vehicles and fewer crashes, there have been 59 fatalities from the beginning of the year though Monday morning compared to 63 during the same time last year. By midmorning Monday, troopers had responded to their 60th fatality.
Lance Budge, 25, of Saratoga Springs, was killed on state Route 201 at 4100 West on Monday when he slammed into the back of a pickup truck that had stopped in the middle of the road to retrieve a ladder that had fallen off the vehicle.
After Easter weekend when three people were killed on Utah’s freeways, UHP troopers issued a reminder to motorists to slow down. While Street said investigators don’t believe most drivers are intentionally going fast, there’s simply less traffic on the road and more open road in front of them.
On April 11, a 25-year-old Orem man driving an Aston Martin was killed after the front of his vehicle clipped the rear of a semitractor-trailer, spun out and hit a concrete barrier and another car, according to the UHP. He was going more than 100 mph in a 65 mph zone on state Route 201 near 800 West and was weaving in and out of traffic prior to the crash, Street said.
But Street said speed cannot alone be blamed for the number of fatal crashes. Lack of seat belt usage and failure by drivers to look 12 to 15 seconds ahead of them to see what’s coming down the road are other factors.
On April 13, Kelton Kluvers, 20, of Blackfoot, Idaho, was driving a Honda Civic on I-15 when he crashed at 1200 North. Kluxers was ejected from his car that rolled several times and pinned under the vehicle. Investigators say speed, distraction and not wearing a seat belt were all contributing factors.
UHP statistics show 9,211 speeding warnings and citations were issued by troopers in March, compared to 11,327 in 2019 and 13,341 in 2018.
Fewer drivers also hasn’t seemed to deter driving under the influence. Street said troopers made 256 DUI arrests in March compared to 279 in March 2019. Bars and restaurants were closed for about half of March. But Street said bars aren’t typically where intoxicated drivers come from. Traditionally, motorists stopped for investigation of DUI have just left a party or their own house, Street said.