Crashes on Utah’s roads claimed 219 lives in 2013, and nearly half of those deaths involving motor vehicles could be blamed on the victims not wearing their seat belts.
In a report released Tuesday, the Utah Department of Transportation noted that the number of traffic fatalities this past year topped the 217 that was reported for 2012 — then the lowest since 1959.
“Although Utah only experienced a slight increase in 2013, any climb in fatality numbers is troubling,” said Carlos Braceras, executive director of UDOT.
In all, just under half of the state’s fatal accidents — excluding pedestrian, bicyclist and motorcyclist fatalities — involved victims who had not buckled up.
“There are a lot of things you can do to prevent death or serious injury in the event of a car crash,” Braceras stated. “The simplest thing you can do is wear your seat belt. People who aren’t properly buckled are 40 times more likely to die in a car crash than those who are.”
Distracted driving — such as texting or speaking on a cellphone — or driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or while drowsy, also are frequent factors in crashes, UDOT warned.
The preliminary report cited 71 fatalities directly due to failure to use seat belts. Aggressive driving was blamed for another 50 fatalities; impaired driving claimed 28 lives; drowsy driving, 12; and distracted driving 11.
Of the total fatalities in 2013 on Utah’s roads, 152 involved cars or trucks; 31 motorcycles; 30 pedestrians and six were bicyclists, UDOT found.