During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, there were 38,824 traffic fatalities in the U.S.—the highest number since 2007—despite a significant decrease in vehicle miles traveled compared to the year before. The following year didn’t show any improvement in vehicle safety. The National Highway Traffic Administration’s projected 2021 statistics show that an estimated 42,915 people died in motor vehicle crashes, a 10.5% increase from 2020.
Traffic data can help us understand why crash fatalities are increasing and what drivers can do to keep themselves and their families safe. This article will focus specifically on Utah road safety facts and tips so you can better understand how to drive safely.
Utah Road Safety Statistics
The following data comes from the Utah Department of Public Safety.
2021 Utah Crash Statistics
- Total crashes: 61,494
- Crashes resulting only in property damage (no injury): 42,951
- Crashes resulting in injury: 18,250
- Crashes resulting in fatality: 293
- Total injuries: 26,513
- Total fatalities: 328
Percentage of Crashes by Injury Severity
- No injury: 69.9%
- Possible injury: 16.1%
- Suspected minor injury: 11.2%
- Suspected serious injury: 2.3%
- Fatal: 0.48%
Total 2021 Crashes by Category
The following statistics divide the crash data into categories, which show the most common factors related to Utah accidents in 2021:
- Teen driver involved: 13,634
- Older driver involved: 8,268
- Holiday related: 8,239
- Speed related: 8,106
- Distraction related: 5,489
- Wild animal involved: 2,390
- Unrestrained (no seat belt) related: 1,797
- Motorcycle involved: 1,163
- Drowsy driving involved: 1,087
- Alcohol related: 919
- Pedestrian involved: 848
- Bicycle involved: 477
- Domestic animal involved: 369
- Drug related: 180
- Scooter/Skater related: 67
- 5 p.m. was the most common time for accidents (5,608 vehicle accidents), while 3 a.m. was the least common time (465 vehicle accidents). It makes intuitive sense that most accidents occur during the busiest times of day, and the data shows this to be true.
22% of the total accidents in Utah involved a teen driver. Drivers aged 13-20 were involved in 16,659 crashes, more than any other age group.
Distracted driving, which includes talking, texting, or eating, was the fifth-highest cause of Utah accidents last year. Many drivers don’t understand how dangerous distractions can be while driving.
- In 2020, distracted driving led to 3,142 deaths nationwide.
- Nine people in the United States are killed daily in crashes involving distracted drivers.
- At 55 MPH, sending or reading a text is like driving the length of a football field with your eyes closed.
When winter comes around each year, driving in poor conditions becomes a concern for Utah drivers. In 2021, 7,439 crashes occurred involving adverse weather in Utah. Those accidents resulted in 2,647 injuries and 32 fatalities. Nearly half of the accidents involving adverse weather were related to speed, suggesting that unsafe speeds present a significant issue on slick roads.
Safety Tips for Driving During the Winter
Snowstorms can make driving more dangerous during the winter. Icy roads are the #1 weather-related danger in the country and cause 536,731 traffic accidents each year nationwide. The following tips for driving during winter weather come from the Utah Department of Public Safety.
1. Drive Slower Than the Speed Limit
Driving too fast is the primary cause of crashes in the winter. Drivers with all-wheel or four-wheel drive often feel overly safe and are more prone to exceeding safe speeds. If roads are wet, snowy, or icy, you should drive below the posted speed limit.
2. Avoid Sudden Braking or Acceleration.
Take turns slowly and start breaking well before you need to stop to give yourself enough time to reduce speed. If you travel 35 MPH on dry pavement, it will take 60 to 100 feet to come to a stop. During bad weather, that distance can double. Icy streets are even worse, requiring a minimum of 600 feet.
Stay safe and avoid sudden turns on icy roads.
3. Increase the Distance Between You and Other Cars
Tailgating is always risky and becomes even more dangerous when the road is slick. Leave enough space between your car and the car in front of you so you have time to react without swerving or slamming the brakes.
Because the road behind an active snow plow is usually clear of snow buildup and ice, it’s safest to follow a snowplow if you find one. If you need to pass an active plow, use extreme caution and never pass on the right.
4. Be Careful When Changing Lanes
Snow and slush can form slippery ridges between lanes that may cause you to lose control. Before merging, check for any nearby cars. If possible, avoid merging, or wait for an ice-free area before changing lanes.
5. Always Buckle Up
Seat belts save lives. Over 1,700 of all motor accidents in Utah last year involved unrestrained drivers or passengers, resulting in 113 fatalities.
Using a seatbelt as a front seat passenger reduces your risk of fatal injury by 45% and moderate-to-severe injury by 50%. Of the 23,824 traffic fatalities in 2020, 51% were not wearing seatbelts. Buckling up is the most effective action to protect yourself in a crash.
6. Buckle Any Children Before Putting Their Coats On
In the winter months, parents typically dress their kids in thick coats. However, winter coats may interfere with children’s ability to fit in their car seats. To ensure that young children remain safe, buckle them into their seats before draping a coat or blanket over them. This will ensure that they are buckled in the safest possible way.
NHTSA Safe Driving Tips
- Stock your vehicle before you leave. In the event of an accident or other emergency, you will want to have an emergency roadside kit on hand. You can view the NHTSA’s recommended emergency kit here.
- Stay alert. Monitor your gas and oil levels, and take breaks on long trips to stretch, eat food, switch drivers, or respond to calls and texts.
- Avoid dangerous behavior. Don’t text, drink, eat, or do anything while driving that takes your focus off the road. It’s also essential to pay attention to speed limits and other traffic signs and follow the rules of the road.
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