The Three Most Dangerous Highways in Utah

This is a picture of a Highway in Southern Utah

Driving is a necessity for almost everyone in Utah. We have to drive to go to work; we have to drive the kids to school, and we have to drive to the grocery store. According to Data.usa’s website, the average number of cars in Utah equals roughly two vehicles per household. Additionally, that same website shows that the average travel time for each employee amounts to around 20.3 minutes. This number is lower than the average worker in the United States (25.3 minutes).

As people commute, some roads are more dangerous than others regarding the number of accidents. At The Advocates Law, we want to help you stay safe. We have put together a list of the three most dangerous highways in Utah. We have cultivated this list to help you. If you are traveling on these highways, be extra safe! Our list has been organized by the number of fatalities.

Interstate 15: Utah’s Deadliest

The fact that I-15 is has the most accidents shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone living in Utah or anywhere close to I-15. According to the Zero Fatalities website, I-15 carries the most people for the longest numbers of miles and has the highest number of fatalities. Interstate-15 is the main highway that travels directly through the heart of the most populated counties in Utah. Interstate-15 is also the longest highway in Utah. According to the Economic Development Corporation of Utah, although Utah is a large state (by land-area standards), Utah has a fairly condensed population. Nearly 2.5 million of its inhabitants live along the Wasatch Front, a 3,600 square mile area. I-15 follows this stretch from southern Utah County all the way to Box Elder County in the north. Because of this population density, it is also one of the most traveled freeways in the state.

The overall number of cars passing on I-15 contributes to the danger. Where there are more cars, there are more opportunities for driver error. Although the stretch of I-15 passing through Utah is not the busiest part of I-15 (that designation belongs to San Diego with 295,000 vehicles per day), the Salt Lake area is the third behind Las Vegas (263,000 cars per day) with 245,000 vehicles per day according to statistics by the Federal Highway Administration.

Speed on I-15 is also a factor in the number of fatal crashes. In 2014, the Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) raised the speed limit from 65 to 70 miles per hour. Plus, there are long stretches of rural areas with a speed limit of 80 miles per hour. According to the Utah Highway Safety Report from 2016, vehicles in fatal crashes are more likely to be speeding. The simple fact that a car is going faster means that if it crashes, there is a more significant amount of energy that has to be absorbed, thus, the higher the chance of death.

I-15, through some stretches, is considered the most dangerous road in America. In an article published in the Deseret News in 2010, Interstate 15 between Las Vegas and Los Angeles is the most deadly stretch in the country. The article points out that most of the traffic fatalities are due to “excessive speed, alcohol-impairment or failure to wear seatbelts.” While this area does not include Utah, many Utahns travel along this route every year going to and from California. Similarly, the Daily Beast ranked stretches of interstates within a state comparing their numbers. Four of the top 100 were in California, three were in Florida, and Utah’s part of I-15 was ranked at number 90 for most dangerous road in America.

Additionally, other parts of I-15 are also hazardous. Because I-15 stretches the entire state, most of the freeway passes through rural areas. Statistically speaking, the deadliest roads are rural. According to an article featured on NPR’s website, most fatal accidents take place on rural roads. The article points out that drivers on rural roads and highways die at a rate 2.5 times higher per mile traveled than on urban roads and highways. This statistic is undoubtedly true of Utah as well. In Utah, the number is 3.2 times as likely to be fatal.

U.S. Route 89: Utah’s Longest (502 miles)

U.S. 89 is one of the oldest roads in the state. Like I-15, U.S. 89 stretches across the entire state. U.S. 89 differs in that it begins near Kanab, Utah and passes by some of the most prominent national parks in the state, including Zion National Park and Bryce Canyon National Park. The road eventually becomes a shadow and runs concurrently with I-15. U.S. 89 also serves as the main street for many cities across the Wasatch Front. For example, in Ogden, U.S. 89 is Washington Boulevard. In Brigham City, the road turns east and crosses over into Cache Valley, and Logan then goes up Logan Canyon into Bear Lake where it exits Utah.

The highway is the second busiest in Utah and is also the second most dangerous road in Utah. This road is often traveled by people on road trips. Some websites are dedicated to planning a road trip along the scenic highway. One site boasts that the road is “America’s Most Scenic Road Trip.” Because much of this road is “scenic,” like I-15, the rural road dangers mentioned above.

U.S. 89 is the most dangerous highway in Utah (A highway differs from an interstate). According to an article entitled, “The Most Dangerous Highways in America” on Geotab, the most dangerous highway in Utah is U.S. 89 with a fatal crash rate average of 0.6 leading to 112 crashes and 131 fatalities.

Like I-15, U.S. 89 has a dangerous speed component as well. Because U.S. 89 follows along I-15, many similar stretches of road suffer from urban accidents and rural accident problems like I-15.

Interstate 80: The Transcontinental 

I-80 differs from both I-15 and U.S. 89 in that it runs from east to west and traverses the entire United States. Interstate 80 begins in downtown San Fransisco, California and finishes in Teaneck, New Jersey. It is one of the original highways constructed in 1956. This highway runs through many large cities including Oakland, Sacramento, Reno, Salt Lake, Omaha, Des Moines, and Toledo. It also passes nearby other large cities like Chicago, Cleveland, and New York. The original highway was based on the historic Lincoln Highway and the Mormon Trail through the Wasatch Mountains.

Regarding fatalities, I-80 comes in third in the state of Utah. Like the other two roads in our list, I-80 has a higher speed limit. For example, in Utah in rural areas, the speed limit is typically 75 and 80 in some specified areas. This is one of the interstates that passes through the “spaghetti bowl” in Salt Lake City. Navigating this area can be a challenge and has caused some accidents in the past. At the beginning of this year, Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) crews installed signs hoping to make it easier for drivers to know where to stop in case of an emergency.

Interstate 80 is also dangerous because there are various animal migration areas peppered along the route. UDOT has recognized this problem and has built fencing around specific problem areas. For example, last year, crews installed six thousand feet of fencing along I-80 in Parley’s Canyon near the Jeremy Ranch exit. The project is intended to protect drivers from hitting aminals along the freeway. Many people have been seriously injured or killed because their car has struck an animal. Fox 13 lists 49 deer, five moose, one elk, and one bear as affecting people’s drives. This project is estimated to be completed sometime in 2018 or 2019.

As you drive around Utah, you try your best to avoid an accident. One of the best ways to prevent an accident is by modifying your behavior. According to calculations by Mark Rosekind of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, as reported by NPR, 94 percent of accidents are due to human error. This means, as pointed out by David Williams with the Telegraph, “it’s not your car or the ‘road conditions’ that are most likely to kill you. It’s your own driving.” By eliminating your own errors, you can be a safer driver and decrease your chances of being involved in an accident.

Most accidents happen within a few miles of your own home. This statistic makes sense. Most people drive within relatively close proximity of their home. Subsequently, the roads that are used the most are going to be those that have the most accidents.  Ultimately, the most dangerous road in Utah is probably the one you travel the most.

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