Oct 31, 2022 - News

Utah drivers are killing more pedestrians and cyclists

Illustration of a stop sign with a memorial wreath.

Illustration: Allie Carl/Axios

Utah drivers have killed or seriously hurt pedestrians and cyclists this year at an extraordinary rate.

By the numbers: At least 65 Utahns have been killed in traffic while they were on foot, cycling or on "personal conveyance" devices, like wheelchairs and scooters, according to state data on ZeroFatalities.com and weekly crash reports.

  • That's more than any other year in the past decade — and we still have two months left in 2022.
  • Another 184 bicycles and pedestrians have been seriously injured — a number exceeded only by last year's 196. With more than four serious injuries per week, we're on pace to surpass last year's total.
  • Motorcyclist deaths also have already matched 2018's peak fatality count of 47.

Meanwhile: Deaths of drivers and passengers in cars and trucks are about average this year, compared to late October data from the previous five years.

Zoom out: Nationwide, pedestrian traffic deaths have gone up drastically in the past two years, according to data from the Governor's Highway Safety Association.

  • Experts have cited increased drinking, stress and anger during the pandemic as possible explanations.
  • Speeding also went up as roads emptied in 2020 — and small speed increases can drastically worsen crash outcomes for pedestrians.
  • America's rising average car size is another likely culprit, according to a report by the city planning nonprofit Smart Growth America.

Of note: The lack of sidewalks doesn't explain the rise in pedestrian deaths, but that does appear to make a bigger difference than it used to.

  • The share of pedestrian deaths on streets without sidewalks rose 5% from 2015 to 2020, the GHSA found.

What's happening: Salt Lake City lowered speed limits on most streets this summer and is adding "neighborhood byways" and bike lanes in coming years.

  • But other Utah cities have been more resistant to traffic-slowing reforms, and the state controls many of the most dangerous roads for pedestrians.

What's next: Tonight thousands of Utah children will take to the streets after dark and while wearing masks.

  • Halloween has been one of Utah's deadliest holidays in recent years.
  • So let's all slow down and pay attention — and try to make a habit of it.
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