The National Highway Safety Administration has awarded its certificate of achievement to Utah for the year-old "Arrive Alive" program, which officials credit with reducing highway speeds and saving lives.

The program, which uses the dual strategy of tougher enforcement of traffic laws and improved education efforts, is a proven success, said Louis De Carolis, highway safety administration regional administrator."Arrive Alive identifies the problem and then implements countermeasures," De Carolis said. "It gets to the heart of the issue with sure, swift enforcement and at the same time gets the message to the public."

Launched in June 1987, the program has been instrumental in bringing speeds down to federal compliance standards and in reducing Utah highway deaths, said Gary Whitney, Utah Public Safety Department spokesman.

A year ago, Utah was facing the loss of millions of dollars in federal highway funds because of excessive highway speeds, Whitney said Friday. "We were looking at about 51 percent of motorists exceeding the speed limit a year ago. Now we're under 50 percent," in compliance with federal standards.

In addition to increased highway safety efforts, Utah last year raised interstate highway speeds in non-urban areas of the state to 65 miles per hour.

Arrive Alive also is being credited for helping reverse an upward trend of fatal accidents on Utah highways.

"We'd been on an upward trend since 1983, then last year we started back down again," Whitney said.

Department records show 283 motorists died on Utah highways in 1983; 315 in 1984; 303 in 1985; 313 in 1986; and 297 in 1987.

Whitney said Arrive Alive focuses on four areas: use of safety belts, courteous driving practices, compliance with speed limits and keeping drivers using drugs or alcohol off the road.

"Our troopers are spending a lot more time in schools, public functions and even talking to motorists on the road" about safety issues, Whitney said. "Then they're backing the education up with enforcement. It seems to have gotten the message across."