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Officials: Fatalities increased on Utah highways in 2014, many could have been prevented by seat belts

Posted at 8:46 PM, Jan 23, 2015

SALT LAKE CITY – Fatalities on Utah highways increased by 16 percent in 2014 as compared to 2013, and officials say about 28 percent of the highway deaths in 2014 were directly tied to the victim not being properly restrained.

Officials with the Utah Department of Transportation delivered the data to lawmakers at Capitol Hill Friday. They said they are still compiling information but stated preliminary numbers indicate that 256 people died on Utah highways in 2014, an increase from 2013's total of 220. The report included totals dating back to 2010, with 2014 having the highest number. Officials stated 72 of the deaths in 2014, about 28 percent of the total deaths, were directly tied to the victim either not using or misusing safety restraints.

UDOT officials like Spokesman John Gleason said the numbers are worrisome.

"It's cause for concern,” he said.

Officials said it’s a tragedy that so many of those deaths could have been prevented with the proper use of safety gear.

"Nearly half of the fatalities, the vehicle fatalities on Utah roads, are a result of people not buckling up," Gleason said. "So you would think that after this many years of talking about wearing your seat belt, that that message would  be getting across... There are still a shocking number of people who are dying from not wearing their seat belt."

Gleason added that when someone doesn't wear a seat belt and then is involved in a crash, that choice has a wider impact.

"We have a responsibility to not only ourselves, but to everyone else out on the road to buckle up and be as safe as possible," he said.

UDOT provided additional data regarding the deaths:

  • 26 of the deaths involved an impaired driver.
  • 25 of the 256 deaths were attributed to distracted drivers.
  • 45 people died in motorcycle crashes, compared to 31 in 2013.
  • 9 of those who were killed were bicyclists.
  • 37 pedestrians were killed in 2014, which is an increase from 2013’s total of 30.

Gleason said one thing that can decrease the danger of death or serious injury is for people to remain inside their vehicles after accidents, where safe to do so.

“What we don’t want to see is people getting out of their car to inspect damage from a fender bender,” he said. “We had a woman that was out on a fatal crash in Weber Canyon last March, young 21-year-old female who had gotten out of the vehicle. She had slid on an icy bridge, slid into a median and got out to inspect the damage and unfortunately there was a semi truck that was directly behind her. He couldn't stop either and slid into her.”

Gleason said if you are unable to move your vehicle off the road, you should stay inside with your seat belt fastened and call for help.

Officials also stated that the majority of the fatal accidents occurred on state roads during the day and in good weather. The full report is viewable in the PDF below.

Report on highway deaths in Utah in 2014