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My view: Staying safe during the 100 deadliest days of summer

By Mike Rapich

For the Deseret News

Published: Wednesday, Aug. 13 2014 12:00 a.m. MDT

All partners in Zero Fatalities have greatly stepped up efforts to help everyone using Utah’s roadways to travel safe and avoid tragedy during this busy time of year.

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

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The Utah Highway Patrol, Utah Department of Transportation and the Utah Highway Safety Office have teamed up with KSL in the “Zero Fatalities” effort on Utah’s roadways. Part of this effort includes the current “100 Deadliest Days of Summer,” which represents the summer travel season between Memorial and Labor Day weekends.

All partners in Zero Fatalities have greatly stepped up efforts to help everyone using Utah’s roadways to travel safe and avoid tragedy during this busy time of year.

Safe travel and avoiding tragedy often simply come down to good choices. The following five simple choices will make the difference between safe driving and tragedy.

First, everyone riding in a vehicle — whether around town or on the interstate — must always wear a seatbelt. The numbers are clear: 60 percent of those killed on Utah’s highways were not wearing a seatbelt. Often this is the last line of defense. The benefits far outweigh the cost — and it is the law. Please, buckle up and buckle those you love.

Second, slow down. Increased speed causes bad things to happen more quickly, and with far greater consequences. Too often we go too fast in a hurry to get where we are going. This forces aggressive movements in order to avoid and move around slower traffic, greatly decreases the ability to avoid an unexpected hazard and often results in little saving of time. Obey the speed limit, and set a great example for others.

Third, stay rested. Driving while drowsy has the same effect as driving impaired. Reaction time, ability to perceive dangers and divided attention skills are all greatly reduced. Remember, if you are asleep behind the wheel, no one is driving — you will drive off the road into other oncoming traffic or run into a fixed object, and you will have little or no ability to recover. Make sure you are rested before you drive. If you get tired, pull off the road and take a break — get some rest before you continue on your way.

Fourth, put away distractions. Don’t use cell phones, tablets, cameras or anything else that takes your attention off driving. Things happen quickly when you’re driving, sometimes a spilt second is the difference between safety and tragedy. If your eyes are not on the road and your mind on what is going on ahead of you, you have little or no chance to avoid the unexpected.

Fifth, don’t drive while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. If you are not sure, don’t do it. If you plan to drink, plan to have a non-drinker drive — be sure to have someone else drive you home. If you are using medications that impair your ability to operate a vehicle, do not drive. No amount of coffee will make you sober. In most cases, you should not drink alcohol at least four hours before planning to drive. If you choose to drive impaired, we with the Utah Highway Patrol will be out there and will use every available resource to stop you before you bring tragedy to someone else. If you see a driver that appears impaired, call 911 and help keep everyone safe.

Finally, be vigilant to identify hazards ahead. Pay attention to what is in front of you and well beyond. When you see brake lights, hazard signals or the lights of an emergency vehicle, anticipate a hazard, slow down and move over. Be aware of the road conditions as well as the possible hazards that are ahead of you.

These five simple choices represent the five leading causes of traffic-related fatalities nationwide, and these causes are all 100 percent avoidable with good decision-making.

Our UHP troopers are acutely aware of the consequences of bad choices. They are reminded at the scene of every fatal crash and every time they have to tell a family member why a loved one will not come home. They see far too often how a simple choice could have made a difference.

When you see a trooper, or any police officer, alongside the roadway, please know they are there for one purpose — to keep you safe. Please help them by making good choices. When you come upon a trooper, please slow down and move over and give them the room needed to keep them safe.

We at the Utah Highway Patrol are proud and honored to be able to serve the citizens of the state of Utah. We want everyone to be safe and go home to your families and loved ones — unhurt.

Mike Rapich is a major with the Utah Highway Patrol. His comments have been broadcast on this week’s KSL-TV Editorial.

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