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Zero Fatalities Working to Combat Rise in Utah Traffic Deaths

In early 2020 traffic fatalities were rising on Utah’s roads and as a result Zero Fatalities urged Utahns to stop justifying bad behaviors and start making one small change today to save lives.

Utah wasn’t alone in this troubling trend. 

According to the Federal Highway Administration, in 2020 the number of miles driven on public roads reached its lowest point in nearly 20 years, yet there was an 8% increase in fatalities from the year before, according to the National Safety Council.

The numbers were unexpected and cause for concern, UDOT Executive Director Carlos Braceras said.

“We all agree that we want our roads to be safer. And we can do better, together,” Braceras said. “If each of us makes one small change today like ignoring that text or buckling up, we will save lives. That change will be different for everyone, but we can all do better.”

In March of 2021 the Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) and Department of Public Safety (DPS) launched a new campaign to combat the rising number of fatalities despite fewer vehicles on the road.

The campaign was based on research that gave insight into why Utahns behave the way they do behind the wheel. The research overwhelmingly showed Utahns care about safety on Utah’s roads. 

It also revealed Utahns believe the dangerous decisions they make behind the wheel were acceptable. Because of this, they make excuses and little lies to justify those reckless behaviors. 

But that overconfidence in safety led Utahns to make excuses to justify bad behavior. Launched in March 2021 on TV, radio, social media and online advertising, the campaign’s underlying message was, “Our lies are costing lives.”

“The truth is we need to look at our own behavior and be better drivers,” DPS Commissioner Jess Anderson said. “We can no longer justify that one text, or not driving the speed limit. One decision can change everything. Let’s all start now.”

Nationally, bad behaviors contributed to 94% of all crashes. To combat this, together UDOT and DPS lead the Zero Fatalities public outreach effort, a year-round program designed to educate the public about the five deadly driving behaviors:

  1. Distracted driving
  2. Aggressive driving, which includes driving too fast
  3. Drowsy driving
  4. Impaired driving, including drugs even if they’re prescriptions
  5. Not wearing seat belts

To help inspire lasting behavior change, Zero Fatalities launched a website, including videos and resources to help educate drivers. The program also took its parent night presentation virtual. Parental involvement is key to preventing crashes among new drivers. In 2021 Zero Fatalities presented at 150 parent nights to help teens establish safe driving habits and remind parents to be better examples.

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