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Highway deaths trending down, officials say

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Posted at 10:13 PM, Apr 05, 2016
and last updated 2016-04-06 00:14:00-04

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah - The number of deaths on Utah roadways is down, but the Utah Department of Transportation says one thing is still high, distracted driving.

This week Utah Highway Patrol released first quarter numbers that show 41 highway fatalities were reported from January to March, compared to 52 fatalities during the same time last year. It’s a trend, Utah Department of Transportation spokesman John Gleason, said is encouraging, but is far from where they’d like to be.

“It’s good news whenever we’re headed in the right direction,” Gleason said. “But it’s really hard to celebrate because our goal is zero.”

Gleason said the reasons for those crashes vary, but one category that has remained high is auto-pedestrian accidents. Of the 41 deaths so far in 2016, 10 of those individuals were pedestrians.

“It’s people that are walking, and tuned into their headphones, and texting,” Gleason said. “Anytime you’re around a road, anytime you’re around traffic, you want to be aware of that traffic.”

Gleason said another worry is the number will spike during the summer months. June, July and August are typically the most deadly months of the year because there are more drivers on the road.

That’s why, Gleason said, UDOT, along with the Zero Fatalities campaign is continuing to educate about distracted driving.

“It’s going to take all of us to watch out for each other,” Gleason said. “You feel like you’re not being responsive to your job, to your spouse, to friends, if you don’t respond right away, but we’ve got to get out of that mindset, because it’s killing people on our roads.”

Law enforcement agencies have said they do plan to step up enforcement of distracted and reckless driving. They also plan to have extra patrols in areas deadly crashes typically occur.