Number of fatal crashes up from previous year

Published: Wednesday, June 4 2014 6:06 p.m. MDT

Updated: Wednesday, June 4 2014 6:06 p.m. MDT

Burt Maez, 46, died Wednesday morning after he was hit by an SUV on state Route 201 near 8500 West. He was the 10th person killed in a car accident since Memorial Day weekend. A few hours later, Ronal Christensen, 58, from Burley, Idaho, died when his vehicle overturned on state Route 23 in Logan.

Steve Breinholt, Deseret News

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LOGAN — A Burley, Idaho, man was killed Wednesday morning after the semitrailer he was driving overturned on state Route 23 in Cache County, the latest fatality in what has been a deadly start to the summer in Utah.

Ronal Christensen, 58, was driving north about 6:30 a.m. when his vehicle left the right side of the road and rolled, according to the Utah Highway Patrol.

Witnesses reported that the vehicle's trailer began to whip back and forth before the accident, pulling the cab off the road, according to UHP.

"Last year during the 100 deadliest days, from Memorial Day (weekend) to Labor Day weekend, we had 77 people that lost their lives on Utah roads," UDOT spokesman John Gleason said.

Though there was only one fatal crash during the Memorial Day Weekend, 11 people have died in crashes on Utah roads since then.

The most recent fatalities happened Wednesday morning. In addition to Christensen, Burt Maez, 46, was hit by an SUV in Magna shortly before 2 a.m. on state Route 201 near 8500 West. It appears he stepped out in front of the vehicle at the last minute, and the driver was unable to stop in time, according to the Utah Highway Patrol.

"Typically during this time period, the summer months, we see a 35 percent increase in traffic fatalities across the state," Gleason said.

UDOT’s Traffic and Safety Division keeps track of every fatal crash each year, he said, and this year the numbers are already alarmingly higher than in 2013.

"Heading into Memorial Day weekend this year, we were sitting at 64 fatalities,” Gleason said. “That was 13 more than we'd had at the same point last year."

Many drivers are simply getting too comfortable, he said. During the winter, drivers have to deal with snow and ice, and they tend to drive slower.

In the summer, the roads are clear and drivers have a false sense of security and get complacent, he said. First responders see more speeding-related crashes during this time of year, Gleason said.

"Of the 77, half of those were killed as a result of rollover crashes,” he said while reviewing last year’s numbers. "It's just tragic because so many of these crashes can be prevented."

Some drivers are simply going too fast, Gleason said, but there are several ways accidents can be prevented.

“It takes all of us to be courteous drivers, to be aware, to get enough rest before we go out, and to buckle up," he said. “We still see a tremendous amount of people that are killed each year by not wearing their seat belt.”

Email: manderson@deseretnews.com

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