SALT LAKE CITY — Distracted driving not only causes crashes, but takes lives; 12 people died in the more than 5300 crashes the Utah Highway Safety Office reported were due to this dangerous practice in 2021.
In a "distracted driving blitz" involving 100 officers from 20 state agencies on Thursday, traffic stops not only cited people for distracted driving, but educated them as well.
Numbers from the Utah Department of Safety's Highway Safety Office show there were more than 5,300 distracted driving related crashes in 2021, resulting in 12 deaths.
"They get away with driving distracted and they don't crash, they don't cause any problems, so, they think they can do it over and over and over again. I've heard some people say they are better drivers when they are driving distracted," said UHP Sgt. Lawrence Hopper.
Major Jeff Nigbur with Utah Highway Patrol says that is an 8.7% increase from 2020. Maj. Nigbur says the crash date shows that 41% of distracted driving crashes in 2021 were cellphone related.
"That drives me crazy and makes me actually quite frustrated, simply because it’s preventable," said Maj. Nigbur
FOX 13 News rode along with Utah Highway Patrol officers during the blitz, and in the first 15 minutes alone they spotted six people distracted by their phones driving on I-80 and I-15.
Those violations were called out to nearby marked units, who took the appropriate enforcement.
“You can see a lot of people are using their phones, texting face timing using them in a matter that we notice they're driving is certainly impaired and it causes a danger to others, including ourselves," said Ofc. Lucas Johnson with Salt Lake City Police.
It's a danger that Ofc. Johnson hopes can be curtailed with giving drivers just a little bit of information.
"If we can find one person that we pull over that might be using the phone that potentially causes that crash down the road, that would have been a fatal crash, if we can prevent that, that's definitely a life saved in our book," said Ofc. Johnson.
Distracted driving laws prohibit the use of a cell phone in any way while driving, except through GPS apps or hands-free voice communication.
Officers plan to continue the blitz in Salt Lake County through the end of the weekend. They plan to hold another enforcement blitz in Utah County on April 11.