Nationally, vans and pickups showed the greatest decrease in being involved in fatal drunken driving accidents, while motorcycles were involved in 8.6 percent more fatal drunken driving crashes from 2010 to 2011, according to the NHTSA report.
In fatal accidents not involving alcohol, motorcycles were involved in slightly fewer accidents than the year before. But there was a 15 percent increase nationwide of "large trucks" involved in fatal accidents nationwide during the same time period, according to the report.
According to statistics from the Utah Department of Public Safety, it's not only fatalities that are going down, but the total number of crashes and the average death rate per vehicle miles traveled. Utah recorded more than 49,300 crashes in 2010 compared to 51,300 in 2009 and 56,300 in 2008.
Baird attributes the state's declining accident and fatality rate to several factors. One is better roads for motorists. The second is education campaigns encouraging motorists to wear their seatbelts and to not drive drunk or drowsy. The third is increased enforcement on the roads, he said.
In 2011, people between the ages of 15 and 34 accounted for 39 percent of the total people killed in crashes in Utah. Speed was a factor in 41 percent of the the total fatal crashes in Utah in 2011, according to DPS statistics. Bad weather and drunken driving each accounted for 15 percent of fatal accidents in 2011. Crashes were more frequent in the summer and fall months, according to state statistics.
Crashes were more frequent in urban areas in 2010, but fatal crashes were more likely to happen in rural areas, according to DPS. A driver or passenger was also more than five times more likely to be killed in an accident involving the vehicle rolling.
In 2011, 48 percent of fatal traffic accident victims, or 82 people, were not wearing a seat belt. In 2010, people not buckled up were 31 more times likely to die in an accident than those wearing seat belts in Utah, according to state statistics. Baird noted that of the seven people killed in accidents that happened in the two weeks after Thanksgiving in Utah this year, six of those people would likely still be alive if they had been wearing a seat belt.
Contributing: Geoff Liesik
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