A look at impaired driving in Utah: fatalities skyrocketing since 2019

Jul 1, 2022, 11:40 AM | Updated: 3:57 pm

SALT LAKE CITY — 2022 is on pace to be the deadliest year on record for impaired driving in Utah. Already this year there have been 53 deaths because of impaired driving, coming off a record year in 2021 of 158 people killed.

“Right now, there seems to be a spike in a lot of dangerous statistics. One of those is wrong way drivers, we had somebody killed this morning with somebody that didn’t have their lights on,” said Corporal Brock Ernsten, Utah Highway Patrol.

Cpl. Ernsten is a member of UHP’s DUI squad, a group of specialized troopers who focus on stopping impaired drivers on Utah’s roads. KSL TV was given special access to ride-along with Cpl. Ernsten to see firsthand what the DUI squad is facing on the roads every night, and on one Saturday night in June Cpl. Ernsten was called to a multi-vehicle crash on I-15 that turned into a DUI investigation, a wrong-way driver crash, and he also made a DUI arrest.

Nights like this, with multiple DUI investigations is sadly becoming typical for the DUI squad.

“We’ll have a lot of impaired drivers that will be just a single vehicle involved and they’ll crash, and side swipe a wall or side swipe another vehicle and there aren’t injuries, but when there are injuries and especially children are involved and injured that is very difficult.”

Since 2019, impaired driving fatalities have skyrocketed.

Cpl. Says he’s seeing drivers push the limit with drugs and alcohol.

“I’ve noticed a lot of lately that it’s both, people have consumed alcohol and some sort of drug as well. I would say a high percentage of the impaired drivers lately have had a combination.”

When it comes to spotting impaired drivers, Cpl. Ernst says it’s the little things, like drifting, or aggressive driving that tip him off.

“If I see someone driving very aggressively, especially certain times of nights and days if I see somebody speeding, it seems the faster they’re going there is an increased likelihood or probability that they’re impaired if they’re going fast or aggressive. But you can also have the opposite where they’re really driving slowly and not stopping in time or maybe they forgot to turn their lights on. Which anybody can forget to turn their headlights on but sometimes that can be an indicator that somebody is not quite mentally functioning.”

Cpl. Ernsten is pleading with Utah drivers to do better, to think ahead and put away the keys before they ever take that first drink.

“You have taxis, Uber, Lift, there are just so many options.”

UHP is in the process of adding more troopers to its DUI squad. They’ve also created a wrong-way task force to figure out the best way to stop those drivers from putting others at risk. In the meantime, Cpl. Ernsten and the DUI squad will continue to do what they can to make sure everyone gets home safe.

“We all have friends and family driving on the roads, and we want our friends and family to be safe just like everyone else does.”

KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories

Road to Zero

Ayanna Likens

Utah sees rise in auto-pedestrian crashes

An alarming concern on Utah roads — a rise in auto-pedestrian crashes, including three that happened within the last 24 hours.
2 months ago
Utah Highway Patrol troopers were citing unsafe drivers on I-15 near the Point of the Mountain. (KS...
Matt Rascon

UHP cracks down on unsafe drivers along I-15

Utah Highway Patrol troopers were out in force Wednesday, to remind drivers to slow down along a stretch of I-15 known for its speeding.
2 months ago
(Spanish Fork Fire Department)...
Josh Ellis, Karah Brackin, & Ladd Egan

2 killed in separate Utah Co. crashes; 1 injured after hitting school bus in Clearfield

Emergency crews responded to fatal crashes in Saratoga Springs and Spanish Fork Canyon while two crashes caused heavy delays in Davis County Monday morning.
2 months ago
FILE PHOTO (Maryland State Police)...
Ayanna Likens

How to make sure your child’s car seat is properly installed

It's Child Passenger Safety week, and it's crucial that your kids are properly buckled in before you hit the road.
2 months ago
A collection of 45 pairs of shoes honors the 45 individuals killed in auto-pedestrian crashes in Ut...
Jed Boal

45 killed in auto-pedestrian crashes honored with 45 shoes

A collection of 45 pairs of shoes honors the 45 individuals killed in auto-pedestrian crashes in Utah last year.
2 months ago
Shara Park

Trauma surgeon gives sobering perspective as Utah wraps up its 100 Deadliest Days

While the number of Utahns killed during the summer months is slightly down compared to last year, we're still seeing a record number of people killed on our roadways. KSL's Shara Park looks at the concerning trends and shares a perspective from someone who has dedicated his life to saving yours.
3 months ago

Sponsored Articles

Hand turning a thermostat knob to increase savings by decreasing energy consumption. Composite imag...
Lighting Design

5 Lighting Tips to Save Energy and Money in Your Home

Advances in lighting technology make it easier to use smart features to cut costs. Read for tips to save energy by using different lighting strategies in your home.
Portrait of smiling practitioner with multi-ethnic senior people...
Summit Vista

How retirement communities help with healthy aging

There are many benefits that retirement communities contribute to healthy aging. Learn more about how it can enhance your life, or the life of your loved ones.
Happy diverse college or university students are having fun on their graduation day...
BYU MBA at the Marriott School of Business

How to choose what MBA program is right for you: Ask these questions before you apply!

Wondering what MBA program is right for you? Take this quiz before you apply to see if it will help you meet your goals.
Cloud storage technology with 3d rendering drawer with files in cloud...
PC Laptops

How backing up your computer can help you relieve stress

Don't wait for something bad to happen before backing up your computer. Learn how to protect your data before disaster strikes.
young woman with stickers on laptop computer...
Les Olson

7 ways print marketing materials can boost your business

Custom print marketing materials are a great way to leave an impression on clients or customers. Read for a few ideas to spread the word about your product or company.
young woman throwing clothes to organize a walk in closet...
Lighting Design

How to organize your walk-in closet | 7 easy tips to streamline your storage today

Read our tips to learn how to organize your walk-in closet for more storage space. These seven easy tips can help you get the most out of your space.
A look at impaired driving in Utah: fatalities skyrocketing since 2019