Geoff Liesik, Deseret News
ROOSEVELT — Scott Forsyth has been teaching Utah teens how to drive for the past 12 years.
He started out in Wayne County, but since he began working in Duchesne County five years ago, he's noticed a troubling trend.
"Most of the adults I see (driving), I wouldn't pass on a driver's test at all," Forsyth said. "I mean, they get bad habits and they're sunk."
Given Forsyth's observations, perhaps it's no surprise that drivers in Duchesne County were ranked as the worst in the state this week by the Utah Highway Safety Office.
Salt Lake County drivers were named the second worst. Weber County drivers came in third.
Drivers in Piute County were ranked the best in Utah.
The rankings were based on a comparison of crash statistics from 2010 against, in most of the nine categories, "vehicle miles traveled" or VMT in each county.
Duchesne County exceeded the state average in six of the nine categories: overall crashes per VMT, fatal crashes per VMT, drunk driving crashes per VMT, speed-related crashes per VMT, motorcycle crashes per VMT, and the percentage of unrestrained crash occupants.
The county was only below the state average in crashes involving teenage drivers, auto-pedestrian crashes and crashes between bicyclists and motor vehicles.
Neighboring Uintah County didn't fair much better in the study. Its drivers were the ninth worst in the state. The county was the worst when it came to crashes involving drunken drivers.
"It's not a number one we want to be," said Uintah County Undersheriff John Laursen. "Looking at the numbers, it troubles us to have that high of incidents involving alcohol and/or drugs, and with people in crashes."
Laursen pointed out that the rankings were made with crash numbers that are two years old — the most recent numbers available — and a lot has changed in the area since 2010.
There is a full-time taxi cab company operating in the county now, and many of the local bars and restaurants that serve alcohol offer free rides home for their patrons, the undersheriff said. Oil and natural gas companies in the region have also been aggressive about ensuring that their employees are not driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, Laursen said.
"And we've stepped up our enforcement," he said.
But even as police work to take more drunken drivers off the streets, Forsyth said there's one thing people should practice when they get behind the wheel that would greatly improve safety.
"I really think a lot of it is just patience," he said. "They're not patient enough."
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