SALT LAKE CITY — Last weekend, in a two-day span, three people were killed on Utah's roadways.
Those who died did so in single-vehicle accidents — though one motorist struck a parked, unoccupied construction truck.
They were also among the victims who died in an injury accident every three minutes, according to a new study, which ranked Utah 21st in the nation when it came to injury-related fatalities.
The Facts Hurt: A State-by-State Injury Prevention Policy Report was released Tuesday by the Trust for America's Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The study issued a report card for each state based on the steps taken to prevent injuries on highways, playing fields and in homes.
The categories included drunken driving, seat belts, helmets, concussions and domestic violence. Each state was ranked in 10 categories and given marks for each category in which they met certain requirements.
On the scale of 10, Utah had a score of five.
"We weren't that surprised by (the findings)," said Jenny Johnson with the Utah Department of Health's Violence and Injury Prevention Program. "We know that there are a lot of things that Utah does very well in terms of policies and laws in terms of injuries and violence prevention, but we also know there are areas we need improve on."
The report used data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System to determine how many injury-related deaths each state had for every 100,000 people. Utah had 64.8 injury-related fatalities per 100,000 people. The national figure is 57.9 for every 100,000 people.
Johnson pointed to another fact noted in the report — that injuries caused by accidents or violence are the leading cause of death for those ages 1 to 44.
"That's taking a tremendous toll on young people, who don't deserve to have these things happening to them and deserve to be injury-free," Johnson said. "I think (these reports) spark more progress and ideas in the public. … And it's a great wakeup call for professionals that there is progress being made and we don’t want to be left behind on these things."
Utah was given points for mandatory ignition interlock devices for all convicted drunken drivers, requiring booster seats until the age of 8, having strong concussion laws, prescription drug use monitoring programs and e-codes that release data on injuries to help researchers.
The state received no credit for laws requiring seat belts, motorcycle helmets, child bicycle helmet use, protections for those in dating relationships and teenage dating violence — based on the study's benchmarks for those categories.
Montana and Ohio received the lowest scores — two out of 10 — while California and New York scored the highest, each hitting nine out of 10.
Johnson said there was some discussion about the benchmarks that were chosen by those issuing the report. For example, the study didn't take note of safeguards like Utah's graduated driver's license system, which has saved the lives of teenage motorists, while it pointed out the state does not allow protective orders in dating relationships.
"This kind of report points out where the gaps are and some of these issues, especially with dating violence, are things people don't really like to talk about," Johnson said. "It's a great reminder that there are things we can improve upon."
Some of the categories addressed in the report, such as concussions and prescription drug use, are issues that are just emerging, Johnson said. Still, the report showed that Utah has prevention plans in place.
"I think, for the most part, our policymakers and legislators are fairly aware of these emerging issues and are trying to do things to combat them," Johnson said. "Everyone has this assumption or view that accidents just happen and we can't do anything about it, but accidents are preventable and there are ways to keep them from happening."
Johnson said injury is a broad topic, though, and that Utah has to focus on its most pressing problems, beyond the areas the study considered. Suicides and accidental overdoses, for example.
"You have to start somewhere," she said. "If states have legislation around these issues, you can save lives."