The Utah Highway Patrol had hoped for a fatality-free Fourth of July weekend.
Instead, four people died during what remains the historically deadliest holiday weekend on Utah highways. The long weekend has never passed without a death since at least 1996, the last year of readily available reports.
The total this year is the highest since 2010, though four dead is still lower than totals from past Independence Day weekends when fatality numbers would near or reach double-digits. With this year’s total, Utah has averaged about three road deaths per July Fourth weekend over the past 18 years.
The deaths began Wednesday afternoon when Matthew L. Nichol, 36, died on Interstate 15 at Beck Street after he lost control of his motorcycle and crashed, according to UHP. Then Saturday, Faymarie Eames, 57, was hit by a truck while trying to make a U-turn on Interstate 15 in Box Elder County.
The final fatalities came Sunday, when Daisy Figueroa, an 11-year-old girl from Denver, and her grandmother Alicia Figueroa, 64, were ejected from a rolling SUV on Interstate 70, 2 miles from Green River. The reason their driver veered off the interstate and over-corrected, causing the vehicle to roll, is still under investigation.
“Four too many,” said UHP Cpl. Todd Johnson. “Of course we want zero fatalities, but unfortunately we had those four.”
The UHP used a DUI blitz in Salt Lake County and troopers statewide increased their seat belt safety and speeding enforcement, hoping to finally see America’s birthday celebration pass without a death.
The crackdown was informed by a new data-driven approach of mapping patrol and blitz locations based on ticketing and crash data from the same time in years past.
They first tried this approach on Memorial Day weekend, when three people died in two crashes, also the worst numbers since 2010. But Johnson pointed out then that troopers made 135 DUI stops compared to 85 in 2012, which may have curbed the potential for more tragedy.
Johnson did not immediately have the same numbers for the July Fourth weekend.
Fourth of July fatalities on Utah highways
1996 • 1
1997 • 7
1998 • 2
1999 • 5
2000 • 4
2001 • 2
2002 • 8
2003 • 4
2004 • 5
2005 • 9
2006 • 1
2007 • 3
2008 • 12
2009 • 1
2010 • 4
2011 • 3
2012 • 2
2013 • 4
Total since 1996 • 77
Source: The Utah Highway Patrol