College students face Utah’s 100 Deadliest Days

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College students should pay special attention to traffic laws to ensure the safety of themselves, other drivers, passengers and pedestrians, according to Lt. Jon Orgill. Utah’s 100 Deadliest Days refer to the time between Memorial Day and Labor Day when car crash fatality rates increase significantly. (Payton Pingree)

The summer season between Memorial Day and Labor Day marks Utah’s 100 Deadliest Days — when the car crash fatality rate nearly doubles compared to the rest of the year, according to the state of Utah.

Over the past ten years, “On average, fatal crashes were 45 percent higher during the 100 Deadliest Days of Summer compared to the rest of the year,” according to a fact sheet on the 100 Deadliest Days from the state of Utah.

The state explains that 94% of crashes are results of human error, including distraction, speeding and aggressive maneuvers, drowsiness, impairment and not buckling up.

Lt. Jon Orgill is the Traffic Team supervisor at the Provo Police Department and shared some insights into how college students can stay alert and careful while driving.

“Those in our student population are frequently stopped for excessive speeds, rolling through stop signs and red lights and distracted driving,” Lt. Orgill said. “There is a lot of pedestrian traffic in Provo, so check, and double-check before pulling through an intersection or when approaching a crosswalk. Following traffic laws is part of being a good citizen and member of the community, and will help to keep you and those around you safe.”

Lt. Orgill said college students in Provo should pay special attention to traffic laws to ensure the safety of themselves, other drivers, passengers and pedestrians. He emphasized the extreme importance of following these laws, saying “effort and education will save lives.”

The Provo Police Department’s crime analyst provided this data on driving-related fatalities in Provo since Jan. 1, 2022. Utah’s 100 Deadliest Days refers to the time between Memorial Day and Labor Day, when car crash fatality rates increase significantly. (Table courtesy of Provo Police Department)

“We have unfortunately responded to multiple traffic fatalities in the last year, many of which could have been prevented by cautious and lawful driving,” Lt. Orgill said. “Getting somewhere a few seconds, or even minutes, earlier will never be worth the cost of taking someone’s life in a preventable traffic accident.”

Provo Police Department Crime Analyst Rebecca Gurr provided a table detailing driving-related fatalities in Provo since Jan. 1, 2022. Most incidences occurred during the 100 Deadliest Days period.

The state of Utah lists four main tips to protect yourself and others while driving this summer: buckle up, drive sober, obey the speed limit and drive alert — never distracted or drowsy.

Speeding is a leading cause of car crashes, including fatal crashes, according to the state.

“Speeding is more than just breaking the law. Speeding endangers not only the life of the speeder, but all of the people on the road around them, including other motorists, pedestrians, bicyclists and law enforcement officers,” the state said.

Lt. Orgill explained that driving in Provo presents some unique challenges. For example, the N-S and E-W street grid system means morning and evening hours can be especially dangerous with sunlight low on the horizon, reaching the driver’s eyes and mirrors. Also, the freeway off-ramps are different than other places, which many out-of-state college students may not be familiar with.

There are several features to Provo roads drivers should be wary of, according to Lt. Orgill. This includes raised platforms for bus riders in certain places, bus lanes, bike lanes and crosswalks with flashing lights.

Lt. George Besendorfer of the BYU Police Department explained that when the weather gets better, pedestrian traffic increases, as well as motorcycles, bicycles, scooters and other smaller modes of transportation.

“It is a place where there’s a lot of students who cross the street, sometimes they don’t cross in a sidewalk. Even if the pedestrian is in a crosswalk, it’s still very dangerous,” Lt. Besendorfer said of Provo. “I’ve seen pedestrians go into the crosswalk and they’re looking at their phone and they’re distracted with something, they don’t even look left and right and boom, they’re just right into the roadway with a 2,000-pound car traveling at 30 miles an hour.” 

The overarching advice from all officials is to stay alert and aware.

“When you get behind the wheel of a car, your focus should then shift from everything else to operating that vehicle,” Lt. Besendorfer said. “If you’re the operator, that is the most important thing at that given time.” 

As students take on the roles of both drivers and pedestrians this summer, staying aware of their surroundings is the key to protecting the safety of the community and combating the 100 Deadliest Days trend.

“We want you to enjoy this beautiful area and all that it offers, and encourage you to take driving seriously, buckle up and put away any distractions,” Lt. Orgill said to college students in Provo.

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