Utah Agencies Unite in New Campaign Focused on Distracted and Aggressive Driving Accidents

At the beginning of every year, the U.S. Department of Transportation releases nationwide statistics for traffic-related incidents both nationwide and for each state. This includes statistics on traffic crashes, accidents, fatalities, reported injuries and their causes. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration states that after showing an increase in traffic deaths nationwide for 2 1/2 years, 2017 showed a decrease of 1.6 percent.

Distracted and Aggressive Driving are the Two Main Causes

The Utah traffic-related statistics were also released, and on Wednesday, January 19, 2018, a press conference was held that released the statistics for 2017. St. George News reported that traffic fatalities in Utah decreased from 281 in 2016 to 273 in 2017, but what was more alarming was the cause of the traffic crashes. The Center for Disease Control recognized that “aggressive accidents” and crashes from “distracted driving” were the main causes.

With a population of only three million residents in Utah, aggressive driving crashes killed 85 people in 2017, which was triple the total of 27 in 2016. Aggressive driving crashes were not the only statistics that increased, distracted driving is also presented tremendous problems in Utah as well as across the U.S.

This was no surprise to any of the traffic agencies because, in 2015, distracted driving killed more than 3,400 people and injured over 400,000 nationwide. In 2016, statistics showed that distracted driving led to 10 percent of the total fatalities and 12 percent of the injuries that were reported.

The first nine months in 2017 show a slight decrease of 1.6 percent in distracted driving fatalities, but it is still a major cause of collisions and crashes. Zero Fatalities Utah reports that when driving on a highway at approximately 55 mph, it takes an average of four seconds to read a text. This means that the driver has taken his eyes off the road for four-six seconds to read the text, and they will travel the length of a football field, during that time, blind! They do not see vehicles in the lanes beside them, behind them or in front of them, and the situation rarely remains constant.

Zero Fatalities and the Center for Disease Control acknowledge three main types of distractions under the driver’s control that cause the highest number of crashes.

They are visual, manual and cognitive:

  1. Taking your eyes off the road is visual
  2. Taking your hands off the wheel is manual.
  3. Taking your concentration off of driving is cognitive.

Texting while driving involves all three, so it is clear to see how dangerous it is. It is like an addiction that must be broken to save lives.

Join the Resistance

The state of Utah finds these statistics unacceptable, so the Utah Department of Public Safety, the Department of Transportation and Zero Fatalities Utah have joined their skills and resources in a new statewide campaign. The newly developed campaign is called “Join the Resistance,” and it was announced to the public at the press conference Wednesday. Its focus will be directed at eliminating distracted driving in Utah.

The new posters invite drivers to “Join the Resistance” in bright red letters. Texting is acknowledged as an addiction that must be controlled while driving. Underneath the invitation to join, it asks the public to “Take the Pledge” and to “Resist the urge to drive distracted!” The population can identify with this request because this will make the streets safer, so Resist!

Improving traffic safety on Utah roadways is the goal, but distracted driving is a nationwide problem and not isolated in Utah, so this campaign was also designed for other states to adopt and use to reduce the numbers of distracted deaths in the U.S. The State of Washington first banned cell phone use in 2007 to prevent distracted driving accidents. In Utah in 2011, 495 non-occupants were killed in distraction-affected crashes.

Recording distracted driving and texting while driving is deceptive. It may appear to be decreasing, but many accidents are self-reported and under-reported in police investigations, stated UHP Lt. Todd Royce. “The last thing a driver who has been in a crash will admit is that they were texting when they crashed, but officers find the cell phones in the vehicles along with other distractions, so it’s difficult to determine the actual cause at times.”

Distracted driving is more common among younger drivers, but older drivers can’t be ignored. To make the streets of Utah safer, DPS Commissioner Keith Squires said drivers must resist picking up or sending texts, and this has to be a priority when driving. Doing nothing allows this deadly habit to continue to kill people, and the number of deaths will increase.

Leave a Reply