Deadly crash prompts UDOT to make changes to construction zone

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NORTH SALT LAKE -- After a series of crashes in the construction zone on I-15 in Davis County, including one that killed a Bountiful man, the Utah Department of Transportation is making changes in an effort to prevent more accidents.

The agency is adding more oranges cones, extending the distance leading into the construction zone on I-15. They hope drivers will get the message. UDOT made the change after a devastating collision Saturday, which killed 57-year-old Michael Carver of Bountiful.

"We decided to go back and revisit that configuration. We've actually added more barrels and extended that merging lane to allow people more time to merge into that new configuration," UDOT spokesman Adan Carrillo said.

According to UHP, the driver of the tow truck that set the chain reaction crash in motion was distracted.

Lt. Mark Zesiger, with the Utah Highway Patrol, said, "The driver apparently looked down momentarily. When he looked up he was coming into a continuator where the construction starts to lane shift."

The tow truck crashed on top of a Toyota Camry. The UHP said the 22-year-old driver was able to crawl out and is expected to be released from the hospital on Sunday.

As traffic slowed to look at the crash, a motorcyclist was involved in another accident. Two people were injured in that crash.

On Friday, two other crashes in the same area snarled traffic for hours. Carrillo said after every accident, UDOT evaluates ways to make it less problematic for commuters. In this case, it has meant extending barrels and moving barricades slightly.

"Safety engineers and design engineers went back and looked it over, and we decided we couldn't be too prudent in this instance," Carrillo said. Statistically, distracted driving is one of the five major causes of traffic-related deaths, including not buckling up, aggressive driving, impaired driving and drowsy driving. In Utah, the five account for more than 200 fatal accidents a year.

Last year, 17 people, easily more than one a month, died due to distracted driving.

"If you're not paying to what you're doing while you're driving, you're just not going to have enough time to react to what's happening," Carrillo said.

Common distractions include eating, drinking, changing a CD, talking or texting on a cell phone, reaching for something in the vehicle, looking at something away from the roadway, even, believe it or not, reading and applying make-up.

"Pay attention to what the signs say, not follow too close. Respect the signs, the speed limits and they'll be safe through the construction zone," Carrillo said.

Nationally, one is four crashes is caused by distracted driving. Unfortunately, added to those stats Saturday was another preventable fatality.

Again, transportation officials say it's simple: slow down and pay attention. At high speeds, especially in a construction zone, the margin of error is very thin.

Story compiled with contributions from John Daley and Ben Winslow.

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