Data drives UHP's Memorial Day crackdown

UHP using data for first time to plan patrols at trouble spots over Memorial Day weekend.
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Utah Highway Patrol hopes to make this Memorial Day weekend one for their history books.

No one died in a highway crash last Memorial Day weekend — the first time that had happened in more than 15 years — and if no one does this time, that would be "almost unheard of " for UHP, said Cpl. Todd Johnson.

To better ensure that happens, UHP is using data for the first time to strategize their patrol.

"[We've been]looking at the data over the major holidays throughout the year, tracking where we have the most problems, including crashes or arrests," Johnson said. After compiling the numbers and locations from their logs, which are all kept electronically, UHP plans to put its troopers where the problems have historically proven worst.

UHP has been considering the data-driven approach for at least the past couple of years, Johnson said. Before, the problem areas were picked out based on the troopers' best guesses, he said.

In Salt Lake County, UHP will start off its extra troopers Friday in pinpointed spots along eastbound Interstate 80 and southbound Interstate 15, as residents leave the valley. As the long weekend ends, the troopers will shift their blitz to points along westbound I-80 and both directions of I-15.

Johnson was unsure of how many extra troopers will be on the highways, but he said that anyone who would normally have the weekend off won't — unless they have a really good excuse, he added.

The Memorial Day weekend has proved to be a dangerous one in the past. An average of four people have died in crashes every Memorial Day weekend from 1996 to 2011, according to UHP crash reports, making last year's success the first of its kind in a long time.

Johnson is hoping they can keep that trend going. UHP hasn't had any fatal crashes so far this year during its big holiday weekends, New Year's and Easter.

Besides drunken drivers, UHP will be focusing on seat-belt enforcement.

"We will have crashes, we anticipate that," Johnson said. But if people buckle up, that will significantly reduce the severity of their injuries.

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