The number of violations on Tooele County highways fluctuated from 2012 to 2013, but law enforcement says they’re heading in the right direction.
DUI arrests were up, drug seizures increased, yet speeding tickets for people going more than 100 miles per hour decreased, said Lt. Corey Nye of the Utah Highway Patrol, all of which mean safer travel for drivers.
“The increase in DUI arrests, decrease in fatalities, increase in criminal interdiction and decrease in speeders, that’s our whole goal,” Nye said. “People are starting to get the message”
In 2013, UHP troopers in Tooele County made 226 arrests of drivers operating under the influence of drugs or alcohol, up from 218 arrests the year before. Nye said the increase in numbers likely means an increase in the rate of arrests rather than the instances of intoxicated drivers.
“I don’t know the reason,” he said. “I would presume it’s because we’ve had a stronger focus on apprehension in the last few years — DUI, speed and seatbelt enforcement — I couldn’t tell you if the increase is because we’ve had more or if we’ve had a stronger focus on it.”
Speeding tickets issued for drivers going over 100 miles per hour drastically decreased from 424 in 2012 to 256 in 2013. Nye said he believes the change in speed limit on one portion of I-80, from 75 miles per hour to 80 miles per hour, also helped reign in some lead-footed drivers.
He noted, however, it will take a few years to establish a pattern to get a clearer picture on the effects of the change.
“I’m hoping it’s because people are getting the message, but we won’t know until time’s passed,” said Nye.
During 2013, troopers discovered 56 significant loads of drugs, mostly marijuana, making their way across the state. That number, an increase from 45 significant loads in 2012, will probably climb higher, both as drug runners try to transport the substances between states where it is legalized and as troopers continue to crack down on the problem, Nye said.
“We will more than likely see that continue with us as the, I guess, island between Colorado and California,” he said.
Fatalities in 2013 were less than half of the number in 2012 — five deaths on Tooele County highways compared to 13 the year before. Nye said while there are a number of factors that contribute to road deaths, the UHP has been targeting the most common things that cause or exacerbate crashes.
“We can tie pretty much all fatalities to those three things: speed, DUI, seatbelt,” he said.
While troopers are encouraged statewide to hit all three things, the agency rotates through one yearly as a primary focus, Nye said. The focus for 2013 was speed; the year before, DUI. This year’s will be seatbelt usage, he said, which will involve talking to students of all ages about the importance of buckling up.
“We’re going to take a stronger emphasis and concentration on doing presentations in schools, colleges, scouts, on seatbelts and seatbelt usage,” he said, noting that DUI campaigns and close watches on speed would continue as well.
All of their efforts are ultimately to keep driving the fatality rate down, Nye said.
“That’s a substantial drop,” he said. “Hopefully, they go down this year as well.”