Rollovers a frequent occurrence at Echo Junction
The frequency of vehicle accidents, especially involving large trucks, on Interstate 80 at Echo Junction in eastern Summit County over the years has prompted the Utah Department of Transportation to take action.
The stretch of Interstate 80 west toward Echo Junction has a 70 mph speed limit before it drops down to 35 mph for a sharp curve at the Interstate 84 interchange. Three semi-trucks rolled at that location earlier this month just days apart. Speed was a factor in at least one of the crashes.
Flashing signs are used to draw people’s attention and warn drivers of the reduction in the speed limit at the curve. But, the signs are in need of replacement, according to Robert Miles, director of traffic and safety for UDOT.
“Those signs are nearing the end of their life cycle,” he said. “As part of that life cycle replacement, we do have plans to add a few other signs just based on the things we are seeing in the crash record. We are going to tweak some things.”
But, officials say the road is still considered safe.
“We don’t have anything indicating that this section of roadway is any less safe than anything else out there,” Miles said. “Sometimes we’ll go a year without an accident and then in a week we’ll have two or three.”
More than 50 accidents have occurred near the Echo Junction within the last three years, according to information provided by the Utah Department of Public Safety and the Utah Department of Transportation.
“Even though the roads are all designed to standard, we do have issues with large trucks tipping over, which isn’t too surprising with how tight that curve comes,” Miles said.
UDOT officials look at a number of factors when determining whether a road is safe, including the severity and frequency of crashes. Miles said the agency keeps an eye on long-term safety trends.
“You look to the total number of crashes and you have to break that figure down to figure out what is going on with the individual,” he said. “Nationally, 94 percent of crashes have a basis in human error. That’s important to keep in mind. But, we do track all of those and monitor all the crashes throughout the state.”
Miles emphasized the role of the driver in most vehicle accidents. He said UDOT can provide a safe transportation system, but accidents are still bound to happen if people are speeding or distracted.
“We need everyone’s help,” he said. “People need to be aware of what is happening. Buckle up and put away the distractions.”
John Gleason, a UDOT spokesman, said the agency strives to make roads safe.
“Drivers need to do their part and that means slowing down when you see a reduced speed limit sign. It is there for a reason,” he said. “It means that road is only safe to be driving 35 mph around the bend and you don’t want to exceed it. Those speed limits are not chosen arbitrarily.”
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