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SALT LAKE CITY – Traffic picked up Tuesday evening ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday. Following a surge in highway fatalities, safety advocates urged everybody to pay attention and reign in aggressive driving.
Utah remains on pace for the deadliest year on the highways in two decades.
"We don't want to let up on a holiday where people are going to be out there traveling around to see their families," said Sgt. Cameron Roden with the Utah Highway Patrol.
Expect to see the UHP out in force this holiday weekend. One year ago, there was one fatality during the Thanksgiving holiday. However, it's been a deadly year on Utah highways including seven fatalities on Halloween weekend.
"We can't enforce our way out of it," Roden said. "Ultimately, there are just not enough officers, and there are so many people traveling that people have to do their side of it."
After a decline for several years, Utah experienced a spike in highway fatalities over the last two years. Already 288 deaths this year, compared to 250 last year, a dozen more deaths than the 2020 total and we have another month to go.
"Anytime you see an increase like that, you have to look at it and say, 'What's changed?'" said John Gleason, UDOT spokesman.
Every one of us has to make the decision that no matter what else is going on in your life — put it all aside and focus on the road.
–John Gleason, UDOT spokesman
Safety advocates think too many drivers are bringing struggles and stress from the pandemic onto the road.
"Every one of us has to make the decision that no matter what else is going on in your life, put it all aside and focus on the road," said Gleason.
Teen fatalities are also trending up. State troopers are trying to figure out why so they can target that age group with appropriate messages, "Whether that be aggressive drivers, and address some attitudes of invincibility," Roden said.
They want to make sure young drivers understand how dangerous it can be.
"Hopefully, we can start to reach them and we can see those trends start to reverse," he said.
"Whether there are no cars on the road, or you're in bumper-to-bumper traffic, you have to focus on what's ahead of you," Gleason said.
If we buckle up, drive the speed limit, and drive sober, the sergeant says we can eliminate many of those preventable deaths.