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The majority of Utahns value safe driving practices, but the truth is, we all can do better behind the wheel

Posted at 1:37 PM, Mar 15, 2021

UDOT and DPS wanted to better understand how Utahns felt about traffic safety and what the culture was in Utah regarding driving perceptions and behaviors, so in the fall of 2020 they conducted a large survey.

They found that most people feel they are very concerned about safety (more so than their peers and even law enforcement), but when asked about their own behavior, they're engaging in the same behavior that they're criticizing others for.

Elizabeth McMillan with UDOT told us that the good news is the majority of Utahns value safety. But the truth is, we can all do better behind the wheel and she says that's how we improve Utah's safety culture.

Research has shown that human behavior contributes to 94-percent of all crashes … bad choices we all make behind the wheel.

This month marks one year since the world shut down because of the pandemic. We've all had to deal with many unexpected twists and turns. And on our roads, we've experienced the unexpected both nationally and here in Utah, with a higher number of traffic fatalities despite fewer people driving.

Once the pandemic hit, in March 2020, a lot of people stayed home and fewer vehicles were on the road. McMillan says, "We were surprised and disappointed as we saw that even as fewer people were driving, we actually saw an increase in roadway fatalities, which is not what anyone expected."

According to preliminary data, 276 people died on Utah roads last year, an 11% increase from the prior year. At the same time, there was 13 percent decrease in vehicle miles traveled (VMT) in 2020.

This year isn't looking much better — 46 people have died on Utah's roads so far in 2021 (as of March 11).

The number of miles driven on public roads and highways in 2020 reached its lowest point in nearly 20 years (since 2002), yet we saw an 8 percent increase in fatalities across the country.

McMillan says, ,"We thought the situation would have improved with the conditions we were facing. With fewer people on the roads, you'd think these numbers would have gone down, not up."

The Zero Fatalities program has consistently communicated about the top five behaviors contributing to crashes and fatalities.

The five behaviors are:

  • Drive alert
  • Drive focused
  • Drive calm
  • Drive sober
  • Drive buckled

The Zero Fatalities program aims to help drivers re-focus on safe driving.

The new campaign isn't singling out one behavior but covers all five behaviors that contribute to fatalities.

Because the truth is, we need to do better. The underlying message of the campaign is "Our lies are costing lives."

We THINK we're okay doing dangerous things behind the wheel because we make up excuses and little lies to justify bad behavior. "I'm fine not wearing a seat belt because it's just down the road." "I'm okay to check my phone because I'm at a stop light." "5 miles per hour over the speed limit is fine." But that overconfidence can be deadly.

The truth is, we need to look at our own behavior and be better drivers. All it takes is making that one simple decision daily to make a change.

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