Utah traffic fatality numbers released for 2017. Aggressive driving fatalities more than triple

In this October 2017 file photo, a Mini Cooper is destroyed following a fatal crash allegedly resulting from road rage on Interstate 15 in Clark County, Nevada, Oct. 8, 2017 | Photo courtesy Nevada Department of Public Safety, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — Preliminary numbers for traffic-related deaths on Utah’s roadways in 2017 are in, and while the total number of deaths went down from 281 in 2016 to 273 in 2017, the number of fatalities in crashes involving an aggressive driver more than tripled, according to the state Department of Public Safety.

Infograph showing traffic fatalities type in 2017 for Utah, Jan. 17, 2018 | Image courtesy of Zero Fatalities Utah, St. George News | Click to enlarge

Aggressive driving crashes killed 85 people last year, up from 27 in 2016, the DPS said at a press conference Wednesday. Unrestrained occupant deaths also increased, from 80 in 2016 to 87 in 2017.

However, two categories of traffic fatalities decreased:

  • The number of people killed in drowsy driving crashes dropped from 20 in 2016 to only six in 2017.
  • Those killed in distracted driving crashes went from 27 in 2016 to 20 in 2017.

In Washington County, traffic fatalities didn’t change from 2016 to 2017: 15 lives were lost both years. However, as of 2016 statistics, the Washington County remains one of six counties with the highest number of crashes during the last 10 years.

Iron County’s crash fatality rate nearly tripled, with 11 lives lost in 2017, up from four traffic-related fatalities the previous year.

In addition to releasing the statistics, DPS announced a new campaign Wednesday that addresses distracted driving.

While distracted driving fatalities may have dropped in 2017, it is still a major cause of problems. According to Zero Fatalities Utah, 1 in 4 crashes involve a distracted driver. On average it takes more than four seconds to read a text, which at 55 mph means driving the length of a football field while blindfolded.

“Join the Resistance” campaign poster to eliminate distracted driving in Utah, Jan. 17, 2018 | Image courtesy of Zero Fatalities Utah, St. George News

“Distracted driving continues to worsen, and is becoming more and more common among drivers. If we do nothing to eliminate distracting activities in a vehicle, drivers will continue to be at a greater risk of dying in a crash or killing others,” Utah DPS Commissioner, Keith Squires said.

Even the high number of crashes involving a distracted driver cited by Zero Fatalities Utah may not be reflective of the reality of the situation, seeing as distracted driving incidents are under-reported, UHP Lt. Todd Royce said Friday.

“The last thing a driver is going to tell us is that they were texting right before the crash,” he said.

Royce added that in single-vehicle fatal crashes it can become even more complicated when troopers find a cell phone, along with other items or issues that could have been a distraction, making it impossible to determine the exact cause.

“So, both with self-reporting and investigations, distracted driving is under-reported in crashes,” Royce said.

In response, the multiagency “Join the Resistance” campaign was launched during Wednesday’s press conference and is designed to address distracted driving.

The Department of Public Safety, the Utah Department of Transportation and Zero Fatalities Utah joined forces and developed the multifaceted campaign aimed at eliminating distractions behind the wheel to save lives and earn rewards. However, this isn’t a problem limited to Utah.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, in 2015 more than 3,400 people were killed and nearly 400,000 injured in crashes that involved a distracted driver, accounting for almost 10 percent of all traffic-related fatalities and more than 12 percent of the total number of injuries in the U.S.

Drivers under the age of 20 are the most at risk, and more than 40 percent of high school students surveyed by the agency admitted to texting while driving. The survey also showed that this behavior places them at a higher risk of drinking and driving, as well as not wearing a seat belt, according to the CDC report.

There are three main types of distraction:

  • Visual: taking eyes off the road.
  • Manual: taking hands off the wheel; and
  • Cognitive: taking the mind off of driving.

Texting and driving combines all three distractions, making it particularly dangerous, the CDC said.

“Please think about what you’re doing when you’re behind the wheel,” Squires said.

For more information on the “Join the Resistance” program, click here.

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Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2018, all rights reserved.

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  • mctrialsguy January 19, 2018 at 1:36 pm

    This is no big surprise considering how everyone drives in the state and in St. George! It doesn’t say how many are millennials or on the cell phone. That would be nice to know. Wake up people !!!!

  • Chuck January 19, 2018 at 2:46 pm

    Time for law enforcement to get more pro-active in slowing people down and stopping the syndrome of the habits of people driving in Utah, especially St. George.
    I have been here in Yuma Az. for a month now and it is refreshing to see courteous driving in action. I remember Washington County drivers used to drive like this or close to it. People do not tailgate and I have not once had to slam on my brakes for an inconsiderate idiot turning left in front of me or running a red light. I AM SERIOUS ! Not once in the month I have been here. I regret going back to rude drivers.
    Come on police, if anything,this report should be enough to wake you up.
    Also, I dont see alot of cars pulled over on the city streets. HMMMMM. They do have them pulled over out on Interstate 8 through. Population in Yuma is 95,000. And the county is 205,000. Larger than us!

  • DRT January 19, 2018 at 3:59 pm

    You can quote all the stastics you want. But it makes no impression on people. They all figure they are “above average” drivers, so they are exempt from all rules of the road.
    Here’s a dirty little secret. Many big truck trucking companies have cameras installed in their trucks. Both dash cameras, AND cameras that are pointed directly at the driver.
    I see a future where these will be required in every motor vehicle. And any time you are involved in a crash, or even stopped by a cop a certain amount of footage will be looked at. Think I’m nuts? Well, if anyone had told me back in the nineteen fifties that all vehicles would have seatbelts and air bags, I’d have thought they were nuts too.

  • Caveat_Emptor January 19, 2018 at 4:58 pm

    I compare Washington County drivers, favorably to those along the Wasatch Front, and certainly to those in the greater Phoenix area.
    I am sure civility has deteriorated, and gracious granting of right-of-way is something quaint, compared to 10 years ago…………..

  • utahdiablo January 19, 2018 at 8:34 pm

    Well, hell….let’s raise the speed limit on I-15 up another 5 – 10 mph! ….you almost Never see a UHP unit on the I-15 ever or a AHP on the Virgin Gorge, so these deaths will only increase this year…get off your damn phones people, that includes you Semi Truckers too

  • MarkBrisson January 22, 2018 at 9:20 am

    Texting is not just a “teen” problem. There are millions of employees in company cars and fleet vehicles who try to “multi-task” behind the wheel.
    While Utah may seek to lower distracted driving by increasing penalties, fees and regulations, there is another option. There are anti-texting apps, like AT&T DriveMode which is FREE!
    One area that is rarely discussed is that Utah has thousands of government vehicles that inspectors, regulators and the agricultural department use as fleet vehicles, but they do not have the technology to diminish distracted driving. I would love to see one state lead by example and use a program, like FleetMode, to block texts, redirect incoming phone calls, and impede all other apps in the State vehicles. If we want our state roads to be safer, let’s start by making our state vehicles safer.

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