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Utah Hopes To Put Brakes On Increase In Fatal Motorcycle Crashes

Motorcyclists ride on Highway 89 in Logan.
Chris Polansky
Utah Public Radio
Motorcyclists ride on Highway 89 in Logan.

On Monday night, a driver of an SUV slammed into another car on Highway 6 in Spanish Fork, causing a collision that killed a motorcyclist. That same night in Logan, a driver of a pick-up truck slammed into a motorcycle, critically injuring one of its riders.

These crashes come as the state of Utah tries to reverse course from last year, when 47 motorcyclists were killed on the road. It was a 24% increase from 2017, when 38 riders were killed. It was the largest such increase in state history.

“It’s frustrating," said John Gleason, a spokesman for the Utah Department of Transportation, or UDOT, "because it doesn’t need to happen.”

Gleason said the state is being proactive, with public outreach, education and new laws. 

“It’s a message that continues to be critical to get the word out there," Gleason said. "It only takes a second for terrible things to happen. As a driver, it’s not just on the motorcyclist to take all the precautions. You have to be aware they’re out there on the road, and we have to be looking for them. Especially this time of year.”

“Honestly," said Utah County motorcyclist Annette Ault, "I don’t think they’re doing enough.”

Ault is the CEO of the Utah chapter of American Bikers Aiming Toward Education, or ABATE, a motorcyclist advocacy group. 

“We broke a record, not one we really wanna break," she said. "This year isn’t looking very good either. There’s a lot the state of Utah can do better. But they’ve been vamping it up because of all the fatalities. Unfortunately, we had to have a lot of fatalities for them to do anything. We’d like to try to be proactive, rather than wait for something to happen, then do something about it.”

Ault said one major safety victory for riders is the state’s new lane filtering law, which allows motorcyclists to pass between stopped cars at traffic lights. It’s intended to help prevent riders from being struck from behind, a major cause of crashes. 

“Over 1,000 every year get hit from behind," Ault said. "That’s quite a few. It gets us out of the equation.”

Ault said her organization’s message to riders and drivers alike is simple: “Be careful. Be aware. Slow down a little bit. Take a couple more seconds to look twice and pay attention.”

According to UDOT, 16 motorcyclists have been killed on Utah roads this year.

The Utah Highway Patrol and Department of Public Safety did not respond to repeated requests for comment for this story.