Usefulness of Utah red, yellow air alerts

Posted at 12:35 PM, Sep 10, 2013
and last updated 2013-09-10 15:02:33-04

Utah's green, yellow and red alert system is designed to encourage people to reduce driving on bad air days, but does it work?

A new study by former University of Utah geographers reports that Utahns don't have the means stop or reduce their driving during the red and yellow alerts. Using statistics provided by the Utah Department of Transportation, the study shows vehicle traffic often increased when alerts were issued.

UDOT officials said the information is a little misleading. Last year they expanded their use of freeway traffic signage on red and yellow alert days, urging drivers to scale vehicle use. They said there were positive results.

UDOT spokesperson Nile Easton said changing driving behaviors and patterns takes time.

"We're still working on finalizing our report, but it showed improvements anywhere from 2 percent to 7 percent depending on where you were -- which county along the Wasatch Front," Easton said. "It doesn't sound like that much, but when you have 200,000 cars a day traveling up and down the Wasatch Front, that's thousands of people making the decision to drive less."

Easton said this year UDOT may be more aggressive in using the freeway signage encouraging drivers to cut back their driving on those red and yellow alert days. He also said UDOT will release its own findings as a result of these studies.