SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — The Utah Highway Patrol is urging drivers to be careful over the holiday weekend after highway accidents made June one of the deadliest months for motorists in almost nine years.
The agency announced this week that 36 people died in traffic-related crashes last month. That's the highest number of traffic-related deaths since August 2005, when 37 people died, Trooper Evan Kirby said Thursday.
The deadliest month on record for the Utah Highway Patrol was July 1978, when 58 fatalities were reported.
The June 2014 data is preliminary and could grow because some reports are pending, troopers said.
Kirby said officials don't know what caused the June spike, but they said many of the accidents involved driver error.
About 60 percent of the fatal crashes involved people not wearing seatbelts, he said.
Utah Department of Transportation spokesman John Gleason told The Salt Lake Tribune on Wednesday (http://bit.ly/1j1LsNe) that many drivers have a false sense of security when driving in the summer months.
"You tend to have more crashes in winter months, but people are driving at slower speeds because of weather conditions so you have fewer fatals," Gleason said. "You have more fatal crashes in summer . because speeds are higher."
The Utah Highway Patrol is trying to curb fatalities by keeping an eye out for distracted and aggressive drivers and people not wearing seatbelts, in addition to watching for drunken drivers, Kirby said.
Kirby said the patrol is deploying an extra 270 troopers for the July 4 weekend — an especially dangerous holiday on the roads. On the highways and roads the agency monitors, 10 deaths occurred on Independence Day last year, while Easter and Memorial Day each saw only five fatalities.
The best way drivers can stay safe, officials said, is by wearing a seat belt, following the speed limit, avoiding distractions and never driving while intoxicated.