Skip to main content

Unmarked police cars in full force to monitor distracted driving

Apr 12, 2024 04:18PM ● By Rebecca Olds

Various law enforcement agencies are supporting April as officers Distracted Driving Prevention Month, hosted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. (Courtesy of Utah Highway Safety Office)

In April, more unmarked patrol cars will be on the streets along the Wasatch Front to monitor distracted driving.  

Utah’s Department of Public Safety has added an additional 400 shifts across 44 different agencies to monitor drivers and look for any distracted driving — triple the efforts made in years past during the same kind of blitz, a press release said.

“The population in Utah is increasing, we have more vehicles on the roadway, we have more distractions on the roadway,” said Major Steven Salas of the Utah Highway Patrol Officer. “We see it each and every day.”

Data from between 2017 to 2021, on Highway Safety website, showed that an average of nearly 5,500 accidents a year in Utah are caused by distracted driving. In 2023, there were 4,921, per the Highway Safety Office.

As of April 10, there have been 943 crashes since the new year related to distracted driving on Utah roads with two ending in fatalities, according to Jason Mettmann of the Utah Highway Safety Office.

“Given the severity of the distracted driving crashes in Utah, we saw increased participation from local agencies helping to educate the public about this dangerous behavior,” Mettmann wrote in an email to the City Journals.

Distracted driving usually involves a phone, including texting and calling, causing things like failing to yield to other cars, failing to keep in the right lane and following other cars too closely according to 2023 statistics. 

But lesser known factors of distracted driving include grooming, animals or passengers in the car and even eating and drinking while driving. 

Mettmann said that on average, over the last two years, there have been 286 crashes related to food and drink distracting the driver in the car. 

May through October, Mettmann said, are typically when fatalities increase from crashes. Which is why April is Distracted Driving Prevention Month, hosted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

“The more crashes we have, the more serious injuries we have and the more fatalities we have,” said Major Salas. “If we can educate the public on eliminating the use of the phone, we will reduce those numbers.”