The weekend of July 4 is expected to increase the number of trips to the highest since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic last year.
The American Automobile Association estimates that 37.1 million Americans plan to travel on vacation weekends, and about 93% of those travelers will do so by automobile. With most road trip predictions, Utah Highway Patrol Soldiers have joined neighboring states for a unified message to drivers: wear your seatbelt.
âSeat belts are absolutely essential, possibly the most critical thing we can all do to make sure that if something bad happens on the road, something unexpected and we end up in a collision, the The likelihood of being able to survive this collision increases dramatically when we fasten our seat belts, âsaid UHP Col. Michael Rapich.
UHP officials on Thursday joined law enforcement in Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, New Mexico and Wyoming in promoting seat belt use over the weekend.
Their message comes as the first half of this year has been particularly deadly on the roads of Utah. Data collected by Zero Fatalities shows that there were 151 road fatalities in Utah as of Thursday, which is a 30% increase from 116 at the same time last year. The total number of accidents, which stands at 29,158, is also up from the 22,545 accidents that occurred on July 1 of last year.
Despite a drop in the number of cars on Utah’s roads in 2020, last year was the deadliest year since 2016. While there are as many deaths in the second half of 2021 as there are in the first half, then 2021 will be the deadliest year on Utah’s roads since 2003.
The peak in the past 1 1/2 years comes as the number of fatal crashes has steadily declined since the 2000s. UHP officials say public awareness campaigns have helped increase the percentage of drivers and passengers who wear seat belts, which is one of the main reasons for the decline. They estimate that the percentage of people who do not buckle up is currently around 9.8% based on accident, ticket and investigation data.
This is good, but not quite what law enforcement officials want to see. This is because the number of people who wear seat belts is still disproportionately represented in fatal accident statistics.
âWhat’s horrible is that 10% of those who choose not to wear their seat belts are involved in almost 50% of fatal crashes that happen on the road,â Rapich said. âIt’s a statistic that’s constant and you can’t get away with it.â¦ It’s significant.â
The timing of the seat belt message is not a mistake either. Rapich pointed out that the July 4 vacation is normally one of the deadliest on Utah roads each year, as it falls in the midst of the â100 deadliest daysâ on Utah roads. He added that Utah has joined with other states in promoting the seatbelt message, as half of out-of-state residents died in Utah crashes over the years. the past four years also did not wear seat belts.
âTo say that wearing (a seat belt) is obvious is probably the biggest understatement we can talk about when it comes to road safety,â Rapich added. âIt’s simple, it’s easy to do. It takes two seconds to do it.â¦ It’s just good, solid and conscious driving behavior.â
UDOT: expect “heavy traffic” in these areas
Utah Department of Transportation officials say delays of up to 30 minutes are expected in some areas of Utah, particularly on Fridays and Mondays when people are traveling over vacation weekends.
The longest delays – up to 30 minutes – are expected on I-15 northbound through Davis County from Friday afternoon through Friday evening. UDOT engineers are also predicting delays of up to 20 minutes on I-15 southbound in Salt Lake County around the same time on Friday. They expect delays of up to 10 minutes in reverse directions for the two counties on Monday afternoon.
Officials said on Wednesday that most UDOT projects will be put on hold over the bank holiday weekend to allow all possible lanes to be reopened; however, there will always be lane closures or work areas to be aware of. Those are:
- I-15 to Clearfield: All lanes of the highway will remain open but lane separations are in place in both directions in the area due to a project involving the median. The speed limit is 60 mph in the work zone.
- I-84 near Morgan: The motorway is reduced to one lane in both directions between Exit 102 at Morgan and Exit 112 at Henefer until July due to pavement and bridge maintenance.
- National Route 39 to Ogden Canyon: The highway is reduced to one lane with alternating traffic controlled by a temporary signal in the canyon. The department is urging drivers to be prepared for delays of at least 15 minutes between the Ogden Valley and places like Pineview Reservoir, Eden and Huntsville.
- National Highway 276 to Lake Powell: The Lake Powell ferry that runs from Bullfrog SR 276 to Hall’s Crossing remains closed due to low water levels. UDOT says drivers should take Route 95 instead.
Long delays are also expected on US 6 in Spanish Fork Canyon, US 191 near Moab, and State Route 9 near Zion National Park due to people traveling to popular Utah recreation sites. .
In addition to the UHP’s message on seat belts, the agency is also encouraging drivers to be vigilant, to put away anything that might distract them while driving, and to take breaks to avoid drowsy driving.