How Many Car Accident Fatalities Were There in Utah in 2015?

Earlier this year, the Salt Lake Tribune published an article citing a 7% increase in Utah auto accident fatalities in 2015.  According to Utah Highway Patrol superintendent Daniel Fuhr, “The increase is because simply 93% of the crashes are from human behavior and error.  The increase is because people aren’t listening to our message.  We tell people, ‘Wear you seat belts.’  But our seat-belt fatalities are increasing.  ‘Don’t drive impaired,’ but our DUI fatalities are increasing. ‘Drive the speed limit,’ but our speed-related fatalities are increasing.”  Statistics released by the Utah Department of Public Safety tend to support Fuhr’s claims: car accidents in Utah are claiming more and more lives every year.

Fatality Statistics Show Car Crash Deaths Steadily Increasing in Utah

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In March, the Department of Public Safety (DPS) released a fatal crash summary for 2015.  By comparing the 2015 fatality report against versions from previous years, it’s possible to get an instant snapshot of how Utah auto accident trends are changing with time.

Sadly, as Fuhr expressed, many of these trends are going in the opposite direction they should be.  In fact, according to DPS data, 2015 represents the third consecutive year Utah accident fatalities have increased, as you can see in the table below:

2013 20142015
Total Fatal Crashes202222256
Total Crash Fatalities220256276

Source: Utah Department of Public Safety, Highway Safety Office

Fuhr specifically mentioned increases in intoxicated driving deaths, seatbelt-related deaths, and speed-related deaths.  Here’s how those figures compare over the past several years:

20132014 2015
DUI-Related Fatalities234537
Seatbelt-Related Fatalities617286
Speeding-Related Fatalities 8794103

Source: Utah Department of Public Safety, Highway Safety Office

It appears there was actually a decrease in DUI-related deaths in 2015, but the figure is still significantly higher than it was in 2013.  For a more detailed look at this topic, see our article on how many car crashes are caused by drunk driving in Utah.

Not only did vehicular accident deaths increase dramatically in 2015 – there was also less overall improvement than in previous years.  According to the DPS, “Utah made progress in decreasing fatalities in only a few areas in 2015 when compared to 2014.  The only categories that saw significant decreases in deaths were” the following:

  • Motorcycle fatalities (9 fewer than in 2014)
  • Drunk driving fatalities (8 fewer than in 2014)
  • Speeding-related fatalities (7 fewer than in 2014)
  • Improper passing-related fatalities (6 fewer than in 2014)

What Are the Leading Causes of Deadly Auto Accidents in Utah?

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While the statistics have shifted, the underlying factors behind them have remained fairly constant.  Speeding, for example, has been the number one cause of crash fatalities three years in a row, accounting for 40% in 2013, 43% in 2014, and 37% in 2015.

The other leading contributing factors to crash fatalities have also remained fairly consistent, shuffling only slightly from year to year.  These factors are:

  • Failure to stay in the correct lane
  • Failure to wear a seatbelt
  • Drunk driving
  • Failure to yield

Some counties saw a more dramatic spike in fatalities than others.  The largest increases occurred in Utah County and Salt Lake County, which respectively had 14 and nine more deaths in 2015 than in 2014.  Conversely, the largest decreases occurred in Duchesne County and Cache County, which respectively had seven and eight fewer deaths in 2015 than 2014.  While Utah overall seems to be getting more dangerous for drivers, Cache and Duchesne Counties stood out as improvements.

Age demographics can be analyzed the same way.  People in the 25- to 29-year-old age group had the largest increase in deaths (11 more in 2015 than in 2014), while people aged 15 to 19 had the largest decrease (six fewer in 2015 than in 2014).

Progress is an ongoing, sometimes frustratingly slow process.  According to former DPS reports, “If Utah had the same fatal crash rate in 2013 as 1973 there would have been 1,120 additional deaths in 2013,” and, “If Utah had the same fatal crash rate in 2014 as 1974 there would have been 587 additional deaths in 2014.”  Our cars are getting safer, and our medical technology is becoming more advanced.  Nonetheless, despite these improvements, the largest accident factor of all – plain human carelessness – continues to claim hundreds of innocent lives on Utah’s roads every year.

“I can go through Davis County and I can pinpoint every single person.  It’s absolutely real,” Fuhr told Deseret News about his experience responding to fatal car accidents in Davis County.  “And I bet you every single trooper feels the same way.”

Contact an Experienced Wrongful Death Attorney for a Free Legal Consultation

The wrongful death of a loved one is a devastating personal tragedy, especially when the fatal accident was of a preventable nature.  Nothing can undo a crash that has already taken place, but know that you have a right to seek justice and accountability for your loss.  Compensation may be available for funeral bills, medical bills, and other losses your family has endured.

Darwin Overson is an aggressive personal injury attorney with over 33 years of experience handling wrongful death lawsuits on behalf of surviving spouses, children, and parents in Davis County and counties throughout Utah.  You can expect Darwin to treat your case with compassion, sensitivity, and respect while fighting persistently to obtain the justice and compensation you and your loved ones deserve.

To arrange a free and confidential legal consultation with Darwin, call the law offices of Overson Law at (801) 895-3143.

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