ST. GEORGE — Labor Day weekend marked the end of the “100 Deadliest Days of Summer,” and the holiday weekend this year ended with six people killed in motor vehicle crashes – an ending just as deadly as the beginning of the deadliest period for motorists – Memorial Day weekend- when six people lost their lives on Utah’s roadways.
During the 100 deadliest days, which runs from Memorial Day to Labor Day, there is typically a spike in the number of traffic fatalities. In fact, fatal crash numbers nearly double compared to the rest of the year — averaging nearly one death per day during the summer months.
Utah Highway Patrol Sgt. Cameron Roden told St. George News that during the deadliest days of summer this year, 97 people lost their lives in motor vehicle crashes, and overall, 226 have died so far this year – compared to 228 during the first nine months of 2021.
According to the Utah Highway Patrol, excessive speed and aggression continue to lead to traffic-related deaths across the state, as was seen during Labor Day weekend, when six fatalities were reported, and with more than 94% of all crashes caused by human error, even the slightest distraction behind the wheel may quickly lead to tragedy.
Officials reported an increase in the number of tickets issued for drivers going more than 100 mph, as well during the holiday weekend, and said road aggression is on the rise, adding that speed and rage become compounded with more people on the roads, a KSL News story reported.
Several factors contribute to deadly crashes, including speed and impairment. In 2021, more than 150 lives were taken by impaired drivers, and another 106 lost their lives in speed-related crashes. The data also shows that Washington County ranked No. 8 on the list with 18 traffic deaths, followed by Iron County that was ranked No. 9 with 13 deaths.
Consistent with previous years, more than 85% of all fatal crashes occurred on dry roads in clear weather, and men are three times more likely to be killed in crashes than women, and drivers are more likely to get into accidents on certain days and at particular times – case in point – most crashes occur on the weekend in the late night and early morning hours.
In Utah, occupants between the ages of 20-29 have the highest death rate when compared to other age groups, and unrestrained occupants continue to make up the highest death toll across the state – despite decades of safety campaigns, “Click it or Ticket” blitzes, crash dummy videos and public service announcements.
The deadly days of summer are particularly lethal for teenage drivers, and motor vehicle crashes continue to be the leading cause of death for young people under the age of 21, and more than half of all teen crashes are caused by distracted driving – particularly when they have another passenger in the car.
Efforts to address violent and deadly crashes caused by speeding
Since 2020, the Utah Highway Patrol has issued nearly 12,000 citations to drivers who choose to drive at extreme speeds in excess of 100 mph – which is “simply reckless and irresponsible driving behavior” that places everyone at risk.
Further, at a speed of 100 mph, all safety systems built into the vehicle will fail – and the odds of surviving a crash are horribly reduced – especially when extreme speed is combined with other reckless driving behaviors, including driving impaired, drowsy or distracted – which is often the case.
“And to be clear, these crashes are devastating, violent, and deadly,” Rapich said in the statement.
Rapich said the cause in a majority of the crashes was directly related to “very bad” driving behaviors that troopers were finding during several accident investigations.
Speeding and road rage
Road rage encompasses a variety of aggressive behaviors by the driver of a motor vehicle, which seem well beyond the perceived offense committed by the victim. These behaviors range from shouting, screaming, and yelling at another driver to using a weapon, including the vehicle, to inflict damage to the victim or the victim’s vehicle.
A number of variables that contribute to road rage include environmental variables, such as heavy traffic and crowded roads, as well as psychological factors – such as high life stressors, displaced anger and higher levels of substance use, according to a 2010 study published in Psychiatry MMC.
AAA estimates nearly eight out of 10 drivers demonstrate aggressive driving behaviors, including speeding – which is one of the primary driving behaviors that can quickly escalate into confrontations on the road that can have deadly consequences, and Utah drivers, it seems, are no stranger to these types of aggressive behaviors.
The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration lists speeding and alcohol use as two of the leading causes of driving fatalities due to road rage, and speeding is listed as an aggressive driving behavior that was responsible for more than 11,250 traffic deaths in 2020.
As it turns out, Utah ranked first on the list of the top five states with the most aggressive driving behaviors that often accompany road rage incidents, a survey conducted by a Forbes Advisor team found.
The team analyzed 10 key factors to determine those states with the most confrontational drivers, as well as how often motorists are confronted with the behaviors typically associated with aggressive drivers.
The survey found that nearly 60% of the drivers surveyed said they have been on the receiving end of rude or offensive gestures while driving, while more than two-thirds surveyed reported being tailgated in the past. Analysts also found that one in four drivers said they knew someone in their home state that was injured during a road rage incident.
In a study by Smart and Mann, individuals with road rage were 33 years of age on average, and more than 96% of them are males.
Speeding has been involved in approximately one-third of all motor vehicle fatalities and is a contributing factor in 29% of all traffic fatalities on average. Additionally, this driving behavior endangers not only the life of the speeder, but the other motorists around them, including law enforcement officers, and the consequences extend beyond a citation.
Speeding reduces the driver’s ability to control the vehicle and it also increases the severity of a crash and of the injuries involved. It also reduces the effectiveness of every safety system designed to prevent injury and death.
This report is based on information provided by law enforcement and may not contain the full scope of findings.
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