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Front Page » January 16, 2007 » Local News » UDOT Report Explores Fatal Traffic Accident Trends in Val...
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UDOT Report Explores Fatal Traffic Accident Trends in Valley, State

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Sun Advocate reporter

An analysis of the factors contributing to fatalities on Utah roads in shows a decline in 2006 from the year before in the number of deaths due to improper restraint, fatigue, speed and trains. However, traffic accidents claimed one more life in last year than in 2005. There was an increased number of traffic deaths in which drugs and alcohol, motorcycles, bicycles and pedestrians were involved.

The number of traffic fatalities in the Castle Valley region decreased in 2006 compared to data compiled in 2005.

According to a report issued last week by the Utah Department of Transportation, there were four traffic fatalities in 2006 in Carbon County - up from three in 2005.

Emery County saw a decrease from eight traffic futilities in 2005 to five in 2006.

Statewide, there was one more fatality in 2006 than in 2005.

"In 2006, 283 people died on Utah's roads. This is definitely not cause to celebrate," said John Njord, UDOT's executive director. "However, in 2006, we did see some improvements, including 60 percent fewer deaths attributed to drowsy drivers, 36 percent fewer speed-related fatalities; and more people are wearing their seatbelts, as shown by a 32 percent drop in fatalities attributed to improper seatbelt use."

But for Carbon and Emery counties, the number of deaths involving improper safety restraint remained constant.

UDOT reported that six traffic-related deaths occurred in Carbon and Emery counties last year, the same number as 2005.

State officials identified improper restraint as a factor in 137 of last years highway deaths.

While down from 208 the year before, seat belts and safety seats were still a factor in nearly half of the fatal accidents.

And speed-related fatal motor vehicle crashes dropped from 77 in 2005 to 49 in 2006.

Fatigue-related deaths were down as well, dropping from 25 in 2005 to 10 deaths last year.

But with declines in deaths as a result of improper restraint, fatigue and speed, there were increases in other types of fatal traffic cases.

The role of drugs and alcohol in traffic deaths was up last year. In 2005, state officials labeled 21 highway fatalities as driving under the influence of an intoxicant (DUI) incidents. Last year, the number of DUIs increased to 23.

Pedestrians were involved in 27 fatalities last year - seven more than in 2005. More fatalities were also seen among bicyclists, who were involved in nine traffic deaths in 2006 - up from three the year before.

Two fatalities involved trains last year, up form one in 2005.

Wildfire was a factor in one traffic death in 2006 - no change from the previous year.

Traffic fatalities decreased in many rural areas and climbed in urban areas. In 2005, UDOT reported that 65 percent of traffic fatalities occurred in rural areas. That figure dropped to 52 percent last year.

Virtually no changes were seen in what type of roads the fatal crashes occurred on. In 2006, 228 traffic deaths took place on state roads - up from 225 the year before.

Age distribution of deaths remained constant as well. No changes were seen among any age groups. Nine percent of last year's fatalities occurred among individuals ages 16 to 19. Another 12 percent occurred in people younger than 16 or with unspecified ages. And 25 percent of victims killed in traffic accidents were in their 20s.

That means nearly 50 percent of victims killed in car crashes last year were younger than 30.

Other age brackets identified by transportation officials included 30 to 45 - accounting for 16 percent, ages 46 to 65 - accounting for 23 percent and older than 65 years - representing 15 percent of the last year's fatalities.

UDOT officials plan to continue the Zero Fatalities campaign. This year, they plan to focus in educating teens on the hazards of unsafe driving.

"Peer pressure is not always a bad thing," said Njord. "When a teen gets into a car, then buckles his seatbelt, it sends a powerful reminder to his friends about safe driving behavior without even saying a word. Teens listen to other teens. They can be very powerful influencers."

Along with the release of the 2006 traffic fatality statistics, UDOT, the Utah Department of Public Safety and several groups of Utahns unveiled a traveling visual reminder of those who died on Utah's roads last year. Headstones representing the 283 traffic fatality victims will be displayed at various schools and public buildings this year, reminding people of the responsibility they bear every time they get behind the wheel.

Contrary to what many believe, most of the fatal accidents occurred in the day and on dry roads. Of the 283 total fatalities last year, 161 occurred in the day and 224 were on dry roads. Just more than one third occurred at night and less than one-sixth were on showy or wet roads.

The state's report also showed a lower number of deaths on many roads passing through the Castle Valley. And while many of the deaths on these highways occurred outside the area, residents of Carbon and Emery counties are among the more frequent motorists on roads such as U.S. Highway 6 and Interstate 70, which pass through the area.

U.S. Highway 6 saw a decrease in deaths from 16 in 2005 to seven last year. While some of these deaths occurred in the western portion of the state in Juab or Millard counties, others were in Utah and Wasatch counties, where the highway passes through Price and Spanish Fork canyons.

Similarly, Interstate 70, which cuts across of Emery, Grand, Sevier and Millard counties, claimed 10 lives last year, down one from the year prior.

Likewise, U.S. Highway 191 dropped from seven in 2005 to three traffic-related deaths last year. Highway 191 traverses the state from Duchesne to the Arizona border, passing through Carbon, Emery, Duchesne, Grand and San Juan counties.

But on Utah Highway 10, which serves as both a commuter route and a major coal haul artery for the region, the state reported three traffic fatalities in 2006. UDOT's 2005 numbers reported zero fatalities had occurred on Highway 10.

Transportation officials also reported that there were no fatalities last year on Utah Highway 31 - the road from Huntington to Fairview. In 2005, state officials reported one fatality.

Other highways in the area all showed zero fatalities. However, three highway deaths across the state were listed as unspecified.

At least one of the deaths occurred in the Carbon-Emery region when a Sunnyside woman was killed on Utah Highway 123 near the U.S. Highway 6 junction.

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