Utah roads more dangerous in 2020, despite a drop in traffic

Mar 15, 2021, 8:41 AM | Updated: 4:26 pm
utah driving dangerously utah roads...
UDOT to begin environmental study on I-15 to determine future construction. (Annie Barker/Deseret News)
(Annie Barker/Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — The global pandemic from COVID-19 has left a terrible impact on Utah, and not just regarding public health and the economy.  State officials say Utahns are becoming much more dangerous on the roads.  Representatives from UDOT and UHP say fatalities jumped last year, even though the amount of traffic has gone way down.  

During the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, police officers and UHP troopers had to maintain COVID-19 safety precautions, just like the rest of us. 

“We didn’t do a lot of our big enforcement efforts on holiday weekends and organized DUI blitzes, and things like that we try to do on a regular basis to keep emphasis on these issues,” says UHP Colonel Michael Rapich.

However, UHP officials say that only lasted for a short time, and DUI blitzes are back on.  In fact, one is planned for St. Patrick’s Day Weekend.

Safety officials say the trends they saw over the 2020 calendar year are truly unsettling.   According to Rapich, there were 276 deaths on Utah roads in 2020, which accounts for an 11% jump despite the fact that there was a 13% decrease in the number of cars on the roads..  He says DUI arrests went up, DUI fatalities went up and the number of tickets for people driving over 100 miles an hour skyrocketed

(I-215 West by the 4100 South overpass. Credit: Paul Nelson)

“In 2020, we issued 5,139 citations for speed over 100 miles an hour.  An incredible increase, 45%,” he said.

Also, Rapich says the number of pursuits spiked by roughly 50%.  Plus, there was an increase in the number of wrong-way fatalities.

He says, “In 2020, we had 15 wrong-way related fatal crashes as compared the previous two years when we had 11.”

The problem, according to UDOT Executive Director Carlos Braceras, is bad decisions being made by Utah drivers, even though we all seem to believe we care deeply about road safety.  Braceras says 82% of people they polled say they care about keeping safe on the freeways, with the majority claiming they cared more about road safety than their friends.

He said, “We place ourselves on this high level, this high pedestal of how much we care, but, when you look at the truth and you start to ask questions about some of [our] behavior, [we’re] engaged in those dangerous behaviors, as well.”

Braceras says we keep doing the things we’re told not to.

“When we get to a stoplight, I know you all have seen this, people pick up their phones and they get a quick opportunity to catch up on their texting or their emails.”

Plus, things are not looking good for 2021.  By March 11, 46 people had died on Utah roads which is roughly the same we saw last year, and not enough of us are making good decisions when we’re traveling.

“Year over year, if you take away the pedestrian fatalities, the motorcycle fatalities and the bicycle fatalities, if you take those out of the total, year over year, 50% of all fatalities are made up of people choosing not to wear seatbelts.”

Our Lies Are Costing Lives

Utah Highway Patrol and UDOT are joining together to launch a new campaign designed to keep people focused on the roads.  It’s called “Our Lies Are Costing Lives,” and Braceras says it urges everyone to consider the small, potentially dangerous choices they make while they’re behind the wheel.

“Today, we’re calling on all Utahns to stop justifying bad behaviors and to start making just one small change to save lives.  That change is going to be different for everyone,” Braceras says.

Join us live as the Utah Department of Transportation and the Department of Public Safety launch a new campaign to combat the rising number of fatalities despite fewer vehicles on the road.

Posted by Utah DOT on Monday, March 15, 2021

Department of Public Safety Commissioner Jess Anderson says even if the roads don’t look busy, that doesn’t mean the rules don’t apply.

“It’s not a reason to speed.  It’s not a reason to go excessive speeds and be aggressive,” he says.

Anderson is not sure why more people seem to be making intentionally dangerous decisions like driving more than 100 miles an hour or leading police on chases.  However, it’s something they’re trying to figure out.

“It’s something we’re still looking into.  We truly do not know why, all of the sudden, this mentality of, ‘Hey, I could just run away.  If I don’t stop, the cops will stop chasing me,’ [happened],” says Anderson.

Today’s Top Stories


Ogden police car...
Mark Jones

Ogden-Weber Technical College evacuated due to bomb threat; no bomb found

Weber County emergency personnel responded to the Ogden-Weber Technical College Wednesday afternoon for a report of bomb threat. After a search of the campus, no device was found.
22 hours ago
south jordan police...
Mark Jones

Two children hurt in auto-pedestrian collision in South Jordan

South Jordan police say two children are in critical condition after a auto-pedestrian collision Wednesday. Both children were taken to Primary Children's Hospital.
22 hours ago
air conditioner...
Carlos Artiles

What if your air conditioner breaks down during the summer months?

If your air conditioner breaks down during the summer, you could be on a wait list of a few weeks before it could be fixed or replaced.
22 hours ago
A police officer holds a gun. Mass shootings, like the one in Uvalde, prompted the gun buyback prog...
Martha Harris

New poll gives insight on what Utahns think causes mass shootings

Even before the mass shootings in Uvalde and Highland Park, the question of what causes these attacks has had a spotlight.
22 hours ago
A screenshot of a facebook post made to the parents of Macie Hill....
Mark Jones

Father of girl who died in Kaysville parade is thankful for those who helped

An 8-year-old girl died Monday in an accident during the Kaysville Fourth of July Parade. Her father is thankful for all who assisted his daughter.
2 days ago
A German Shepard lays on the ground...
Mark Jones

Dog dies after being left in hot car for more than an hour

A dog died Tuesday after being left in a hot car for more than an hour, according to Salt Lake County Animal Services.
2 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Tax Harassment...
Jordan Wilcox

The best strategies for dealing with IRS tax harassment | You have options!

Learn how to deal with IRS tax harassment. This guide will teach you how to stop IRS phone calls and letters, and how to handle an IRS audit.
spend a day at Bear Lake...
Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

You’ll love spending the day at Bear Lake | How to spend a day at Bear Lake

Bear Lake is a place that needs to be experienced. Spend a day at Bear Lake.
Curb Appeal...
Price's Guaranteed Doors

How to have the best of both worlds for your house | Home security and curb appeal

Protect your home and improve its curb appeal with the latest security solutions like beautiful garage doors and increased security systems.
Prescription opioids can be disposed of during National Prescription Take Back Day...
Know Your Script

Prescription opioid misuse | How to protect your family from the opioid epidemic

Studies have shown that prescription opioid misuse has increased since COVID-19. So what do you need to know about these opioids?
national heart month...
Intermountain Healthcare

National Heart Month: 5 Lifestyle Changes to Make Today to Keep You Heart Healthy

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women. One person dies every 36 seconds in the United States from cardiovascular disease
Joseph Smith Memorial Building...
Temple Square

The Joseph Smith Memorial Building is an icon of Salt Lake City | Why hosting an event at this beautiful location will make you a hero this year

Here's why hosting an event at the iconic Joseph Smith Memorial Building in downtown Salt Lake City will make you a hero this year.
Utah roads more dangerous in 2020, despite a drop in traffic