SALT LAKE CITY — New numbers show that the Utah Highway Patrol is seeing an 82 percent increase in wrong-way crashes this year. The UHP has already had 20 wrong-way crashes since 2022 began.
“We've tried to make sure we're in the right place at the right time," said UHP Sgt. Cameron Roden. "But we can't predict when and where these are going to happen.”
Eight fatal wrong-way crashes have happened in Utah just since 2022, according to recent UHP data. Most of the wrong-way driver stops and crashes seem to happen late at night, and most of the drivers were under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
“Majority of these crashes are impaired drivers," said Roden. "So this is something that can definitely be avoided. If we can get those people to make a change, find another ride home, and hopefully we can make a change and turn around this trend that we've been seeing."
The UHP and Utah Department of Transportation recently formed a task force to try to find a solution. They’ve already tossed around a few ideas, said UDOT spokesman Mitch Shaw.
“Thinking with lower signage, when they're impaired, they could be slumped over, kind of looking down," he said. "Maybe, hopefully, the lower signs catch their eye.”
The question is, where to start? Although a bulk of the incidents occurred in the Salt Lake City area, wrong-way driver fatalities have happened in other parts of Utah, Shaw said.
“These crashes are very sporadic," he said. "So it's not like we can pinpoint one location where there may be a problem or where there may be an issue that we can resolve with some engineering or some better signage.”
Data from the UHP shows wrong-way crashes increased in 2020 but dipped last year. Just looking at the past three months, Utah will most likely see a high number of crashes this year, said Roden.
“We hope to see a decrease," he said. "But it looks like we're still seeing those.”
There’s only so much we can do to protect ourselves from wrong-way drivers; UHP is begging people not to drive impaired, and reminding everyone to avoid distractions while driving and to wear a seatbelt.
“Give yourself as much time and space as possible," said Roden. "So if you're looking, scanning down the road and eliminate distractions, so that way you can focus on driving and spot those potential hazards that are coming at you.”