St. George crashes: How many are there and why?

SOUTHERN UTAH  — Chances are good that every Southern Utahn has either been involved in a car crash or knows someone who has. The number of crashes in St. George are climbing, and statewide the numbers aren’t faring any better.

File photo altered for feature series illustration shows a June 2015 crash in St. George, Utah. St. George News
File photo altered for feature series illustration shows a June 2015 crash in St. George, Utah. St. George News

In this Part I of a St. George News series, “St. George crashes,” we asked people what their take is on driving and crashes in St. George. Click the play arrow at the top of this report to see what they had to say.

Following are some hard facts.

More lives were lost on the country’s roadways in 2015 than would be lost if a single 115-passenger airplane crashed and killed everyone on board – every single day of the year.

In St. George, 2015 saw a similar increase in traffic collisions, Sgt. Craig Harding, traffic supervisor for the St. George Police Department, said.

In 2015, there were 2,166 crashes in St. George. From Jan. 1 to Oct. 28, 2016, there have been 1,962 crashes.

That number may be deceiving though, Harding said.

“We are just entering the fourth quarter of the year,” he said at the beginning of October, “which tends have a higher number of crashes, so our busiest months are still ahead of us.”

There have been 200 crashes reported in St. George thus far in October. If that number is any indication of what’s to come through the end of the year, the crash totals for St. George could show an increase of more than 10 percent over last year. The numbers have ramifications across the board, Harding said.

A juvenile driver lost control of his Subaru on Brigham Road, crashing through the center median and taking out several trees before coming to rest in the opposite lanes, St. George, Utah, July 23, 2016 | Photo by Sheldon Demke, St. George News
This July 23, 2016, file photo shows the wreckage of a Subaru after a juvenile driver lost control on Brigham Road, crashing through the center median and taking out several trees before coming to rest in the opposite lanes, St. George, Utah, July 23, 2016 | Photo by Sheldon Demke, St. George News

In St. George, the three most common crash types are: 

  • Failing to yield.
  • Following too close.
  • Failing to maintain lane.

Additional local traffic facts:

  • Wednesdays have the highest number of crashes.
  • More crashes occur between the hours of 3 p.m. and 4 p.m. than any other time frame.
  • St. George Boulevard between 1000 East and the Interstate 15 overpass sees more crashes than any other area.

The local data shows that many of the crashes that keep officers busy occur in the same areas, at roughly the same time every day, Harding said. Most are caused by following too closely or failing to yield before making a left-hand turn.

Knowing where most crashes occur and when they occur can help drivers reduce their chances of being involved in a crash. By being more aware of heavily traveled areas, Harding said, drivers may remember to wait before turning, to keep a safe distance between their vehicle and the car in front of them and to slow down.

Red Mazda four-door incurred extensive damage in two-vehicle crash in the intersection of Bluff Street and Blackridge Drive on a busy Saturday night, St. George, Utah, Oct. 15, 2016 | Photo by Cody Blowers, St. George News
This Oct. 15, 2016, file photo shows a red Mazda four-door with extensive damage from a two-vehicle crash in the intersection of Bluff Street and Blackridge Drive on a busy Saturday night, St. George, Utah, Oct. 15, 2016 | Photo by Cody Blowers, St. George News

“And at the end of the day, one of the primary causes of so many crashes is impatience,” he said, “that’s the bottom line.”

St. George Police Capt. Gordon McCracken agreed. Aggressive driving behaviors leading to more crashes find their root in impatience, he said, which can lead to following too close, making a hasty turn or speeding.

“Excess speed contributes to so many collisions,” McCracken said, “and even if there are other factors involved, speed only make it more deadly.”

Traffic-related fatalities in Utah have been on the rise since 2013, at a rate of 20-30 additional deaths each year for the past three years in a row, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

In 2014, there were 54,036 reported traffic crashes on public roadways in Utah. These crashes involved 134,182 people, with 23,364 injured and 256 people killed, according to a 2014 report published by the Utah Department of Public Safety.

So on an average day in Utah, there are 148 motor vehicle crashes involving 370 people with 64 people injured.

There were 275 people killed on Utah roads in 2015, and 11 people died from crashes during the first two weeks of 2016.

Traffic-related deaths here in the state were higher in 2015 than in the preceding seven years, according to the Utah Department of Public Safety.

Emergency crews respond after a car crashed into a median near milepost 10 on I-15 after a storm swept through the state, Washington County, Utah, Oct. 24, 2016 | Photo by Austin Peck, St. George News
This Oct. 24, 2016, file photo shows emergency crews respondomg after a car crashed into a median near milepost 10 on I-15 after a storm swept through the state, Washington County, Utah, Oct. 24, 2016 | Photo by Austin Peck, St. George News

It’s not just Utah, traffic crash numbers are rising all over the country, and 2015 saw the largest increase in traffic deaths than the country has in 50 years; more than 38,000 people were killed on U.S. roadways in 2015.

Before that, the number of traffic-related fatalities had been falling for decades. It hit an all-time low in 2011. But then the numbers began to climb and, by some estimates, they are now skyrocketing.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said in a statement released Oct. 5 that traffic deaths rose more than 10 percent in the first half of 2016 over what they were during the same period in 2015.

At the same time, the number of miles traveled also increased – but only by 3.3 percent. So, the traffic related deaths far outpaced the increase in miles traveled over the same period.

On average, there are more than 6 million car crashes per year in the U.S, and the The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates about 10 million or more crashes go unreported each year.

Additionally, about 1/3 of the total fatalities across the country were alcohol/impaired motor vehicle crashes. One study showed that over a two year period, from 2013 to 2014, 27 states saw a reduction in the number of crashes, while 22 states saw their numbers climb.

For Utah, alcohol-impaired driving fatalities over that same two year period increased by 55 percent – the highest rate of increase in the nation.

About the series, “St. George crashes”

“St. George crashes” is a St. George News series exploring vehicle crash causes and effects in the immediate region and to some extent statewide and beyond. See the rest of the reports when they publish – links will be added below.


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Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2016, all rights reserved.

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  • Not_So_Much October 31, 2016 at 8:36 am

    But, if you own a body shop it’s all good.

  • ladybugavenger October 31, 2016 at 8:46 am

    Drivers would have to care first….care about others, that is.

    • .... October 31, 2016 at 5:23 pm

      Don’t be so negative ! LOL

  • 42214 October 31, 2016 at 9:35 am

    Reasons: 1- Open book test 2- insufficient testing of actual driving skills and physical skills (elderly). My neighbor’s 87 year old mother just had her license extended for 5 years and all she had to do was take a vision test.
    3- insufficient enforcement for distracted driving violations (texting etc)
    4- Meaningful traffic enforcement and not just driving around with radar bagging petty 5 mph over citations.
    5- Better engineering, some of our intersections and overpasses are confusing at best.

  • indy-vfr October 31, 2016 at 9:50 am

    As I’ve noted many times regarding driving in STG, there exists a total disregard for speed limits. I was taught to obey the speed limit – I don’t know what young drivers are taught around here? Hammer down!

  • karensg October 31, 2016 at 10:31 am

    Left turn lanes with undedicated green lights are a huge hazard, imo.

  • .... October 31, 2016 at 11:54 am

    There would be less rear end collisions if RealLowLife didn’t tail gate his special little buddy boob. oops I mean Bob

  • Bob October 31, 2016 at 12:43 pm

    “So on an average day in Utah, there are 48 motor vehicle crashes involving 370 people with 64 people injured.”

    is this right???

  • Bob October 31, 2016 at 1:00 pm

    Horrible drivers here–aggressive, tailgating, playing with phones, speeding, not yielding, and hardly ever see anyone pulled over. Imagine the $$$ they could gather up just ticketing tailgaters and at the same time making us safer. So are the cops doing their jobs? Are they scared they will ticket someone they know from church? what is it?

    • .... October 31, 2016 at 5:25 pm

      Awww poor little boob have the Mormons hurt your feelings ?

  • Bob October 31, 2016 at 1:18 pm

    I don’t think its just SO UT tho, or just utah. I always recall driving around in parts of Oregon, below portland and around medford, and, although the speed limits are low, it seemed lots of people driving around like they were drunk or on meth. it was freaky how many there were, too

  • DB October 31, 2016 at 4:14 pm

    A few thoughts…”St. George Boulevard between 1000 East and the Interstate 15 overpass sees more crashes than any other area.” Does that include the diverging diamond over the interchange? The “failing to maintain lane” term is rather vague. It seems to be used whenever authorities can’t think of something better. Lastly, drive with a plan. Be in command of your car. No one is going to make you do something you aren’t comfortable with. I won’t make a ‘hard’ left turn (left turn crossing both directions of traffic) on St George Blvd or Bluff between 100S and Sunset unless there is a traffic light. Doing a couple extra turns and adding a minute to travel time makes sense to me…My two cents.

  • Common Sense October 31, 2016 at 7:00 pm

    42214 hit the nail on the head. That’s all folks.

    • 42214 November 1, 2016 at 7:49 pm

      Thanks. Here is another example of inefficient govt. My friends son is an adult on govt support for mental disability. (anger, ADD, learning disorder you name it). He was called into DMV for re-examination. He failed the open book test twice and finally passed it. He was a given a provisional license to drive for 5 weeks until he could take a behind the wheel driving test. That means the state of Utah deliberately granted a license to a mentally challenged driver pending a driving test in 5 weeks. Question: Hop many people can you kill or hurt in 5 weeks waiting for a driving test. Insane at best isn’t it.

  • NotSoFast October 31, 2016 at 10:43 pm

    Need more statistics. But I think if you conducted a study, you’d fine that 80-85% of the accidents in St. George, involve women with their cell phones sitting on the passenger seat next to them. Got to have that cell phone handy to see where the sales are. Right? But when questioned after a rear end accident, You’ll hear, Why of course I wasn’t paying attention to the cell phone or reading coupons. Don’t be silly.

  • darkgoddess November 1, 2016 at 5:15 am

    They forgot to list the fourth most common reason for all of the crashes:
    1. People think the yellow light means 5 more cars can go
    2. Red light means at least 2 more can go

    I moved here from a community with a high retirement population, and yes, we had a lot of wrecks that involved elderly drivers, but you didn’t see the blatant disregard for traffic lights that you see here in this community. And, the speed limit on Dixie Drive is apparently 55-60 mph.

    • Bob November 1, 2016 at 12:12 pm

      the question: why aren’t cops giving loads of tickets? anyone know?

  • Bob November 1, 2016 at 12:21 pm

    if the police would put together a big campaign to crack down on these particular nasty driving habits i think we’d see wrecks cut way back. They’ve been so lax with traffic enforcement that these habits have become trends around here. all it would take is a few months of really cracking down on these drivers to start to break these trends. why isn’t this happening? and add red light cams maybe?

  • karensg November 1, 2016 at 3:23 pm

    Add sun glare to the list. It seems uniquely awful at certain times. Is it caused by our elevation? Can’t block it out with my hand in more than one spot–impossible to see where I’m going, where I want to go, whether cars aren’t coming round the bend on my green light so I can turn, whether any bikes or pedestrians are around, or if there’s a motorcycle through the center foliage. That’s my rant in favor of better signal lights. Just giving tickets doesn’t solve the basic impediments to how to break across or into moving traffic safely.

  • Be Happy November 2, 2016 at 8:02 am

    Giving out tickets teaches few of the thousands of drivers. Sun is dangerous certainly at different times of day. St George is large enough for arrow turn signals. Slows down traffic but is safer if signal goes red after arrow not green. But the biggest problem … addiction to cell phone. People leave your phone alone while city driving. Sacrifice for a few minutes.

    • Cody Blowers November 2, 2016 at 8:33 pm

      Hello Be Happy,

      Thank you for writing in and commenting on the story, I really appreciate your taking the time to do that. Keep watching for future stories, and I really can’t say any more than that at this time. Thank you again, Cody

  • NotSoFast November 3, 2016 at 7:34 pm

    You think that Sharia law should be considered for young women drivers as well as older drivers who do more nodding off than maneuvering a vehicle in a straight line. Also, have you noticed that no one in So. Utah would dare use the factory installed horn? It’s so rude and disrespectful – you know?
    One more thing—– They should build a Trump style wall around the Sun River communities, if you know what I mean.

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