A new report by the Utah Department of Transportation states that traffic fatalities have gone up from 217 in 2012 (the lowest since 1959) to 219 in 2013. Carlos Braceras, director of UDOT, told KSL that “although Utah only experienced a slight increase in 2013, any climb in fatality numbers is troubling.”

Troubling indeed as 71 of the 219 deaths can be attributed to improper use of safety restraints, one third of total fatalities. If we exclude incidents involving pedestrians, motorcycles, and bicycles, which obviously won’t be attributed to seat belts, then nearly half of the remaining fatalities could have been prevented. “There are a lot of things you can do to prevent death or

Image Courtesy of UDOT

serious injury in the event of a car crash,” Braceras stated in a UDOT press release. “The simplest thing you can do is wear your seat belt. People who aren’t properly buckled are 40 times more likely to die in a car crash than those who are.”

The Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, or Advocates, recently released their 2014 “Roadmap to State Highway Safety Laws” which ranks states on their traffic safety legislation, including seat belt laws, motorcycle helmet laws and licensing gradations based on age. (For a full list, see the original document) Utah ranks right in the middle, but lacks comprehensive seat belt enforcement and up-to-date teen driving restrictions.

Utah has seen a significant reduction in fatalities since the year 2000, and while a slight increase over the last year is not a terrible sign, it may represent the start of a plateau, however, this remains to be seen. Even after passing last year’s three-foot bike safety law legislators have been slow to adopt truly comprehensive traffic safety legislation. There is still a lot to be done before Utahans can make traffic fatalities a thing of the past, and it will take both increased personal responsibility and specific legislation to truly make an impact.

As always, Christiansen and Hymas reminds its readers to buckle up and drive safely.