SOLDIER SUMMIT, Wasatch County — U.S. Highway 6, from Spanish Fork to Green River, has a reputation of being one of the deadliest roads in the state.
But that's not the case anymore.
The Utah Highway Patrol reports that in 2012, no one died on that stretch of highway. Remarkable considering the history of that thoroughfare.
UHP Lt. David Bennion has spent two-thirds of his career working U.S. Highway 6 and the other roads of Section 9. He investigated his first highway fatality there 18 years ago.
"I've been on long enough to know that the next tragedy is just around the corner,” he said.
But this year, there were zero fatalities in the section he commands, which includes much of U.S. Highway 6 and state Route 10 — although there were two fatalities on U.S. 6 just west of his region.
"To have us drop from eight, nine fatalities a year to zero is pretty dramatic,” he said. “We've been super excited about it."
Section 9 had a total of nine fatalities last year after a previous low of eight in 2010. U.S. Highway 6 had 16 fatalities in 2005, and nine several other times in the last decade. The UHP credits the drop in fatalities, in part, to increased enforcement of DUIs, speeding, and seat belt use.
The roads are safer, too. Over the past five years, the Utah Department of Transportation made several improvements to the highways in the area, including adding extra lanes and adding passing zones/lanes. They also installed high-visibility signs and rumble strips to alert motorists.
"UDOT is constantly looking for ways to improve safety and U.S. 6 is one of those that we continually look at,” said Muriel Xochimitl with UDOT.1 comment on this story
It spent nearly $240 million on 56 projects on U.S. 6 over the last decade and plans even more upgrades. The state spent more than $60 million on similar projects on Highway 10 and isn't finished there either.
Education is also a big factor in reducing the number of fatalities. Troopers have worked with local groups to help educate teen drivers in area high schools.
But Bennion said it all comes back to drivers.
"Add a little time to your schedule, make smart decisions behind the wheel. It makes it safer for everybody," he said.