SALT LAKE CITY — Crashes and fatalities on Utah roadways are trending in a disturbing direction so far in 2021 compared to years past.
“This year alone we’ve seen more people that have died on our roads to this point than any other year in the last decade,” said John Gleason, a spokesperson for Utah Department of Transportation. “It’s something we take for granted because we do it all the time, but for most of us it’s the most dangerous thing we’ll do all day, is get behind that wheel and we have to treat it that way.”
From January 1, 2021 to June 23, 2021, there have been roughly 139 fatalities and nearly 28,000 crashes on roads in the state of Utah. Compared to the exact timeframe from 2020, that’s an increase of 30 fatalities and more than 6,300 crashes.
“It’s heartbreaking because it’s not numbers we’re talking about, it’s easy to get fixated on numbers but these are people, these are folks that aren’t going home to their families,” said Gleason.
While there’s no exact reasoning behind the increase, there is increased traffic on roads in 2021 compared to last year due to the pandemic. During the summer months, more travelers are taking road trips and find themselves more comfortable with dry road conditions.
“Traditionally, the summer months are the deadliest on our roads, we typically see traffic fatalities nearby double from the rest of the year,” said Gleason.
The timeframe from Memorial Day to Labor Day is commonly referred to as the ‘100 Deadliest Days’. Law enforcement officials typically respond to an increased number of crashes during this stretch. In late May, Utah Highway Patrol told FOX 13 they've seen a sharp increase in traffic violations over the last year.
“It’s just so important for all us to focus on the simple things, we can all do one or two things to improve our driving,” said Gleason, who recommends drivers focus, pay better attention to those around them, pay attention to speed and drive defensively. “We’ve started emphasizing the behaviors that people should exhibit to get to where they’re going safely and not focusing as much on the things that they’re doing wrong.”