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Sunday, Dec. 21, 2014

Troopers urge drivers to focus on safety during holiday weekend

By Keith McCord, Deseret News

Published: Fri, July 25 5:57 p.m. MDT

 This was the scene Thursday, July 24, 2014, on state Route 73 near Eagle Mountain. Two people died and three others were injured in this head-on crash. UHP urges drivers to be extra cautious during this holiday weekend.

This was the scene Thursday, July 24, 2014, on state Route 73 near Eagle Mountain. Two people died and three others were injured in this head-on crash. UHP urges drivers to be extra cautious during this holiday weekend.

(Alan Neves, Deseret News)

EAGLE MOUNTAIN — The summer death toll on Utah's roads is at an alarming rate.

The latest fatal accidents occurred Thursday — a one-car fatal accident in Cedar City and a violent crash on state Route 73 in Utah County.

“Year to date, last year to this year, we're almost at 40 percent in the number of fatalities on Utah roadways,” Utah Highway Patrol Sgt. Todd Royce said.

That's a discouraging number, seeing that Utah is only halfway through the "100 deadliest days" on the roads, the period between Memorial Day and Labor Day. The state has seen nearly 40 deaths so far.

Two people died and three were others injured in an accident that happened around 1:30 p.m. Thursday. Authorities say 28-year-old Jennifer Taft Bailey for some reason pulled into the oncoming lane and hit another car head on. She died, as did Catherine Hancock, 15, of Eagle Mountain, who was in the other car.

Hancock's brothers, ages 10 and 7, were in the Chevrolet Cruze driven by their father, David Hancock. His condition was upgraded to good Friday, and his two boys' injuries are not life-threatening.

All members of the family were wearing seat belts and had to be extricated from the vehicle by emergency crews.

Nine people died in two accidents on Utah highways over the Fourth of July weekend, according to UHP.

During June, 36 people died on Utah’s roadways. According to the UHP, that’s the worst month since August 2005.

"Over 50 percent of the fatal crashes we see that we handle, people are not restrained,” Royce said. “Of that, probably 50 percent of those would be a survivable crash."

The highest total for the month of June was in 1978, when 41 people died on Utah’s roads, according to the Utah Department of Public Safety.

Extra troopers are on patrol through the weekend, and there are another 166 additional so-called "safety shifts.”

“They're just looking for violations,” Royce explained. “They're not handling crashes or anything like that. They're just looking for the impaired driver, the excessive speed.”

During the past three years, Utah saw a significant reduction in highway fatalities, and now the effort is to turn the current trend around.

"We work really hard to make every weekend a zero fatalities weekend,” Royce said. “It's been extremely difficult lately.”

Contributing: Viviane Vo-Duc

Email: kmccord@deseretnews.com

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