The upcoming Labor Day weekend marks the end of the "100 deadliest days" of summer driving — and state highway officials openly hope that Utahns drive more safely this holiday than they have during the rest of the summer.
"We haven’t done too well over these last 100 deadliest days," said Carlos Braceras, executive director of the Utah Department of Transportation.
"We had 91 fatalities so far, and that’s up by 18 from last summer," a hike of 25 percent since Memorial Day weekend, he said.
"Traditionally we see about a 35 percent increase in fatalities in summer months compared to rest of the year,"Braceras said. "And this year has been no exception," and it is even worse.
He blames several causes, but especially points to motorists not wearing seat belts. He said 27 of this summer’s deaths were related to people not wearing them.
"If you are not wearing a seat belt," Braceras said, "you are 40 times more likely to be injured or killed in a crash — 40 times."
UDOT had planned, but had to cancel, a unique demonstration Wednesday to show how important seat belts are. It was going to drop a car 50 feet from a crane — which simulates a crash at 40 mph — to show how important seat belts are to protect crash dummies inside.
"With the potential for lightning and rain, we didn’t think it was appropriate to do it," Braceras said — but added just imagining that drop shows how violent a 40 mph crash can be and the importance of buckling up.
Braceras also points out other factors important to safe driving. "Get plenty of rest. Don’t push yourself. Drowsy driving is a major concern."
He adds that distracted driving, including texting, "continues to be an issue with people who are using their devices" despite a new law that makes it easier for police to ticket people for it.
Aggressive driving and intoxicated driving, he said, are other common causes behind deadly accidents.
"If people will buckle up and pay attention to those four behaviors, we can reach our goal of zero fatalities," he said. "My goal is that we make it through this holiday weekend, and everyone returns home and there are no fatalities."
UDOT urges motorists to allow extra time for travel for expected heavy traffic Friday evening and Monday afternoon.
Most construction on highway projects will be suspended over the weekend, but lane restrictions will remain in some places, including:
• Interstate 80 in Summit County: It is reduced to one lane in each direction between the U.S. 40 junction (east of Park City) and Wanship, and the speed limit has been reduced to 45 mph.
UDOT strongly encourages use of Interstate 84 as an alternate route. The restrictions are scheduled to remain through November to repave lanes with new concrete.
• Interstate 15 in Davis County: Construction for new express lanes has narrowed existing lanes in both directions. UDOT says because of heavy traffic expected this weekend, drivers should consider alternate routes such as Legacy Parkway.
• U.S. 6 in Spanish Fork: It is scheduled to be reduced to a one-lane road near the mouth of Spanish Fork Canyon beginning as early as 10 p.m. Monday. A temporary signal will control traffic through the construction zone.
After that begins, UDOT predicts delays from construction there for eastbound traffic of up to one hour on Friday evenings and westbound delays of up to one hour on Sunday evenings.
During other times, average delays of about 30 minutes are expected in each direction.
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