Why are Utah road fatalities on the rise?

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SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC 4 Utah) – New data shows Utah road fatalities are on the rise for the fourth consecutive year. 
 
According to the Utah Department of Transportation and the Utah Department of Public Safety, 280 people lost their lives on Utah roads during 2016.  Wednesday, public safety officials held a press conference to say that number is 280 too many.
 
“Ninety-four percent of crashes are [due to] human error,” said Carlos Braceras, Director of the Utah Dept. of Transportation.
 
Braceras says bad decisions like drunk driving, aggressive driving, and failing to buckle up are ultimately to blame for 263 of last year’s 280 deaths. 
 
Braceras says no one can explain the last four years of climbing fatality rates with total certainty. 
 
“You can blame all kinds of things…” Braceras told Good 4 Utah’s Ali Monsen.  “People are traveling more, our population is going up, I think we have more opportunities to be distracted.  Some of the devices that some of us are carrying are a little tempting,” he said, adding that at the end of the day, drivers themselves have to be responsible. 
 
The report shows that Salt Lake County saw more than double the deaths that any other county did.  The data also breaks down fatalities by road, showing I-15 is the most deadly, claiming 24 lives in 2016, and it would not be fair to blame Mother Nature.  The report shows 84 percent of fatalities happened on dry road.  In fact, the most fatal month was July during Pioneer Day and Independence Day weekends.  Finally, the data shows a clear distinction between genders — that  men lost their lives in crashes more than twice as often as women did. 
 
“Not being buckled up — time after time — is the number one cause of our fatalities on our roadways.  Men choose to buckle up less than women.  We also see aggressive driving — speeding — as one of the top three causes of our crashes, and we see men tend to drive more aggressively,” Braceras explained. 
 
Despite having major media coverage and public safety campaigns, Utah had only 186 days with ‘zero fatalities’ in 2016, leaving first responders with 179 days of delivering devastating news to families across the state. 
 
“I can absolutely remember every single time I’ve had to go to someone’s home and tell them why their loved one isn’t going to come home and how they died,” said Utah Highway Patrol Col. Michael Rapich.
 
So far for this year, the data is not looking any better.  In the first 18 days of 2017, 11 people died on Utah roads.  That is also the same number of fatalities Utah had last year at this time.
 

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