SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – Car crashes that happen during summer months are often more deadly. With traffic data already showing a significant rise in deadly crashes in 2021, officials are urging drivers to be vigilant on the road.
Crashes have claimed 130 lives from Jan. 1 to June 15, according to reports from the Utah Department of Transportation. In this same timeframe in 2020, UDOT data reports 102 fatalities.
Data shows the number of people killed in year-to-date crashes on Utah roads is higher than in the last 11 years. Fatalities at this time in 2016 are now the second-highest (122).
“2021 has been a terrible year for traffic fatalities,” said John Gleason, a UDOT spokesperson. “The good and the bad thing about looking at numbers on fatalities, we can turn it around anytime, or we can go in the opposite direction, which no one wants to see.”
During the “100 Deadliest Days of Summer,” Gleason said crash fatalities often double.
“We see traffic fatalities increase by about 50% compared to the rest of the year,” he said.
Almost three weeks into the “100 Deadliest Days,” Gleason said the state has seen “a number” of people that have lost their lives.
“This summer is already off to a rough start,” he said.
An increase in fatal crash data is a concern for UDOT officials.
“During summer months, it’s usually smooth sailing, and unfortunately that’s when we see speeds a little bit higher, when we see people becoming a little more complacent and unfortunately, we see a number of fatalities,” Gleason said.
Driver behavior, such as distracted driving, not wearing a seat belt, and speeding, are contributing factors in fatal crashes. Newly released UDOT data found that in 2020, nearly twice as many people died in alcohol-involved crashes compared to 2019.
“Those little decisions can save your life and it’s so important, especially during these summer months when we do see fatalities on the rise,” Gleason said.
In counties with greater volumes of traffic, Gleason said they also see a higher number of fatalities.
UDOT data shows in 2020, Salt Lake County reported 67 fatalities; Utah, 30; Weber, 22; and Washington, 16.
Counties with the fewest fatalities in 2020 were Beaver, 2; Garfield, 1; Wayne, 1; Rich, 1; Daggett, 0; and Piute, 0.
“Big freeways and those areas that have I-15, I-80, I-70, those freeways see more fatalities because there are more people that are driving on them and speeds are a little bit higher because they’re freeways,” Gleason said. “Those are typically the areas that you would see higher fatalities, those counties that have more people living there and more people that are driving.”
Last week, Wasatch County Sheriff’s Office posted on Facebook about recent car crashes that claimed the lives of five women in the community.
In the post, County Sheriff Jared W. Rigby wrote: “I’ve asked the deputies and area law enforcement to strictly enforce laws related to impaired driving, distracted driving, seat belt and safety restraints, and other traffic laws. So, please be understanding as they do their jobs enforcing these laws.”