Growing number of highway fatalities alarms officials

By Marcos Ortiz

Published 06/04 2014 03:31PM

Updated 06/04 2014 05:18PM

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC 4 Utah) – Highway authorities are becoming concerned over the growing number of roadway related fatalities.
Since Memorial Day, the Utah Highway Patrol reports there have been 11-fatalities. But the Utah Department of Transportation says that number has increased even more since May 1st.

One of the more recent fatalities claimed the life of 43-year old Kari Wartenbe. She died Tuesday afternoon near 2900 South and 700 East in Millcreek.
Investigators say a car rammed into her as she was turning.

"It happened to one of our neighbors, somebody we've seen everyday for ten years,” says Julie Lomax. “It's not a happy day."

And it has been that way for families involved in these crashes over the past few weeks.
A 17-year old Farmington boy was also killed Tuesday. Monday, A 49 year old died in a motorcycle crash in South Ogden. The day before, a 93-year old man ran a red light and was killed in Weber County.
The fatalities keep growing over the past few weeks.

“A lot of them have been on state routes and interstates,” says Sgt. Todd Royce with the Utah Highway Patrol. “So we are concerned and we're hoping to change this trend.”

Officially UHP reports 11 fatalities since Memorial Day alone. But, since May 1st UDOT reports 21 have died on Utah's roadways.

“The difference we've seen this year is the number of fatal crashes is up by one or two from last year at this time but we've seen more people that were killed in those crashes,” says John Gleason, spokesman for UDOT.

Example, a week before Memorial Day four were killed in a one vehicle rollover on I-70 near Moab.
Days later, three were killed in a single car crash on Interstate-80.

UHP says distracted and impaired driving, speeding and drowsiness are some of the causes of these fatalities.
But they say refusing to buckle up is still a big problem among Utah drivers involved in crashes.

"Usually right around 50% or half of the fatal crashes in the state are reported that the driver or one of the passengers is not wearing a seat belt,” says Sgt. Royce.

UDOT has started a driver safety campaign since January 1st called “Zero Fatalities.” Their website offers advice, testimonies from families and strategies to reduce the number of highway deaths in Utah.

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