SALT LAKE CITY — After a rash of recent accidents involving vehicles on and off Utah roadways, local Salt Lake City officials on Thursday announced measures to keep roads safer.
Over the last two weeks, five people, including four children, have died in accidents with vehicles. The majority of these deaths were caused by alcohol-related accidents, some of which were hit-and-run incidents.
So far this year, Salt Lake City has had nine fatal auto-pedestrian accidents.
28 pedestrians have been struck and killed so far this year in Utah; On Tuesday, three people died in the span of just one hour. Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall, along with UDOT and the Utah Highway Patrol, addressed the deadly crashes on Thursday.
"It's unacceptable and we must do more," said Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall.
Pedestrian deaths in Utah are nearly double what they were this time last year, according to Zero Fatalities. In Salt Lake City, there was just one deadly traffic accident as of May 4 in both 2019 and 2020. In 2021, there were three, and in 2022, there have already been nine.
“It’s absolutely tragic," said Carlos Braceras, Executive Director of UDOT. "Even more so because these crashes didn't have to happen. They were all preventable.”
Mendenhall announced a new partnership between the city and Zero Fatalities, plus a new Safe Streets Task Force that will work within the city to identify areas that need to change. She’s also asking the city council to designate $2 million for traffic calming projects; that could mean wider sidewalks, more speed bumps, and traffic circles.
“Salt Lake City, like cities across this nation, has long been a vehicle-first city," Mendenhall said. "But as we grow, and our population density increases as more pedestrians choose to walk or bike through our neighborhoods to get where they need to go, we need to evolve. We have to put the safety of our pedestrians first.”
The city will also partner with the Utah Department of Transportation's Zero Fatalities education program to prevent drowsy, distracted, and impaired driving.
UDOT will be designating an additional $4.2 million toward bicycle and pedestrian safety, plus increasing its Safe Routes to School Program outreach and funding by 50 percent.
“This is happening at a time of year when historically we have the lowest pedestrian and bicycle cyclist fatalities of the year," said Braceras. "And if we follow historic trends, that could give us bad news for the rest of the year when we normally see them increase.”
Roads are better engineered and safer than ever before; the cars we drive are safer too, but you never would guess it.
“Whatever else is going on in your life, I asked you to do one thing: put those troubles in the backseat before you get behind the wheel of the car and focus on the road ahead," he said.
The string of deadly accidents began on April 26 when 13-year-old Eli Mitchell was struck and killed by a driver who police say had consumed seven beers before hitting the teen in West Jordan.
On Monday, two boys, both 3-years-old, were killed when a driver, allegedly high on meth, careened off a Utah County road at 100 mph into a corral where the kids were playing.