A near record-breaking year for auto-pedestrian fatalities, officials urge caution

Oct 27, 2022, 12:00 PM

FILE: Image of South Salt Lake City Council members Shane Siwik and Corey Thomas holding signs for ...

FILE: South Salt Lake City Council members Shane Siwik and Corey Thomas hold signs for a honk and wave as they try to draw attention to pedestrian safety. An advocacy group wants to see a Utah law that prohibits a right turn on a red light. (Silas Walker, Deseret News)

(Silas Walker, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah may break the record this year for pedestrian fatalities.

In the last decade, according to safety officials, the highest number of fatalities was 49 deaths in 2013. With two full months left in the year, Utah is already at 43. Fall and winter months are the most dangerous and high numbered for pedestrian deaths. 

Visibility decreases and the nights get longer, making the roads more dangerous. 

The Utah Department of Public Safety, DPS, Utah Department of Transportation, UDOT, and Intermountain Healthcare is addressing the rise and have important safety measures.

Harland Hayes, MD, emergency medicine physician from Intermountain Healthcare said, “As we fall back into the winter hours, we have to adjust and compensate for less light and poor weather conditions to keep ourselves and others safe on Utah’s roads,” 

“These pedestrian crashes are 100 % preventable when drivers and pedestrians work together,” said Sgt. Cameron Roden with the Utah Highway Patrol.

Additionally, Roden urged drivers and pedestrians to think of how they can protect themselves and those around them as they acknowledge drivers and pedestrians share the road.

UDOT and DPS have partnered on a campaign that brings attention to and improves pedestrian safety through education and can be viewed at Drivermyths.utah.gov and pedestrianmyths.utah.gov.  

Tips for pedestrians 

UDOT said that when crossing the street, pedestrians need to make eye contact with drivers and make their presence known. 

Both pedestrians and drivers need to limit all distractions.

“We lead busy lives and are frequently surrounded by distractions. We are prone to interruptions in our sleep schedules, but life continues,” said Hayes.

“These distractions and sleep schedule disruptions not only affect our health, they make us more accident prone as we operate vehicles and cross streets.

In Utah, “not visible” is a leading cause of pedestrian fatalities. Safety leaders urged pedestrians to be noticeable and wear reflective gear at night. 

Additionally, other tips provided by safety leaders include not allowing small children to cross the street alone, not crossing an intersection diagonally, unless it is specifically designed for this and walk on the left side of the street facing traffic if no sidewalk is available. 

Tips for drivers 

The best tip for drivers is to always assume there will be a pedestrian at corners and intersections. Even with the right of way, especially in these winter months, always check for pedestrians. 

Finally, other tips include, don’t pass a car that has stopped in a travel lane until it is determined whether that vehicle has stopped for a pedestrian. Crosswalks exist at any intersection, whether there are pavement markings or not. Enter and exit driveways and alleys carefully – just because you don’t see someone behind you, doesn’t mean they aren’t there – especially children. Do not drive distracted or impaired.

With more people out on our streets, officials said distracted or impaired driving could have deadly consequences.

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A near record-breaking year for auto-pedestrian fatalities, officials urge caution