Though not all highway accidents are preventable, many can be avoided - and the means for avoiding them are usually quite simple.

Among the proven methods of making travel safer are: exercising a little common courtesy, planning adequate time to get to destinations, heeding speed limits, being attentive to road hazards and conditions and driving both defensively and offensively, which go a long way to prevent needless damage and suffering. They are not a total cure-all, but a start for better safety.A start in this direction by Utah drivers is badly needed. For years, they have been criticized for their habits behind the wheel, and now there's some concrete evidence to re-enforce those criticisms.

A study by the Insurance Research Council shows that Utah drivers, based on the number of vehicle-damage claims per 100 insured cars, are the 13th-worst drivers in the nation and worst among the West's drivers.

Ironically, Utah drivers are often heard to criticize California drivers. But the accident rates in Salt Lake, Davis, Utah and Weber counties alone are all worse than the rate in metropolitan Los Angeles.

Basic courtesy and driver attention are always needed, but particularly during winter driving conditions, snarled holiday shopping traffic and at crosswalks, where pedestrians, who always have the right of way, seem to be especially vulnerable. Last year alone, 97 people were injured and 39 killed in crosswalk accidents in Utah.

Watch it, Utah motorists. Otherwise, the state that brags about having the greatest snow on earth may soon have to start apologizing for also having some of the worst drivers.