SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – 2021 saw 320 fatalities on Utah roads, the largest number since 2002.

UDOT Executive Director Carlos Braceras addressed the public on the issue, acknowleding that the last two years have been hard for everyone, and that they’ve been packed with a lot of changes and challenges, and that many have experienced health issues, economic struggles, social issues, political unrest, natural disasters, with the list going on and on.

Braceras notes that many of us have had to change the way we work, go to school and even interact with others, “It’s an understatement to say there have been a lot of changes, demands, and stresses in our lives in the last two years. It’s not a stretch to say this stress is also taking a toll on our roads.”

According to Braceras, 2021 saw increases in driving incidents across the board. “Aggressive and speed-related fatalities are up, we’re seeing more impaired driving deaths, people aren’t buckling their seat belts as much,” Braceras said.

Utahns are not wearing their seat belts as often, according to Braceras, citing that it’s the lowest rate we’ve seen in 5 years, going from 90.2 % in 2019 to 88.2% in 2021. At the same time, unbuckled fatalities and serious injuries increased by 54.6% percent, with 174 in 2019 and 269 in 2021.

Zero fatalities seems like an impossible number, but that is, in fact, the goal that Braceras aims to achieve. He states, “To some, this goal may seem unrealistic and unattainable. Let me be the first to say, reaching zero fatalities will never be easy. We are facing an uphill battle. But the bottom line is there is absolutely no other answer and no other choice. Zero is the only acceptable number.”

In 2021, Utah Highway Patrol made over 230,000 stops for speeding and gave 4,700 citations for going over 100 mph.

UHP sees this sort of behavior as an act of aggressive driving, which comes in many forms, including following the person ahead of you too closely, weaving in and out of traffic, not signaling, driving unpredictably, or getting angry with others on the road.

UHP also saw 61 alcohol-related fatalities in 2021, with the average BAC (Blood Alcohol Concentration) for DUI arrests sitting at 0.165, more than three times the legal limit. 66% of DUI arrests also involved drugs other than alcohol.

Additionally, there has been an increase in teen drivers involved in fatalities, as well as over 2,000 drivers cited for using a mobile device while driving.

Don’t wait for a crash to learn the importance of safety, we can all find ways to improve and be better drivers today.