U of U scientist hopes to save lives by analyzing winter car crashes in Salt Lake Co.


SALT LAKE CITY — Many people just accept that car accidents are part of life when it comes to snow storms. The roads get icy and people crash. However one U of U professor says it doesn't have to be that way.

Professor of Geography, Dr. Richard Medina, is studying every car accident that occurs in Salt Lake County during snow storms this winter.

His plan is to pinpoint the streets and intersections that are most dangerous and hopefully bring some awareness and spark some safety enhancements.

"Accidents aren't just driven by poor weather, they are driven by the urban system, whether the road conditions are poor, what the traffic is like, what the zoning is, what type of street lighting we have," said Medina. "You have to do some scientific research, some analytic research to identify those patterns."

Medina conducted this same study in Washington D.C. in 2011.  He said the results were life-saving.

"We were able to reasonably predict over time where those accidents were going to occur," said Medina.

Once you know the trouble spots, Medina said, there are usually a number of ways to make that particular street or intersection safer.

"I think we can reduce the amount of accidents. I think we could reduce the severity of accidents by looking at where the vulnerabilities in that urban system are," Medina said.

Some Utah drivers said, considering the amount of snow we have, this type of data can be extremely useful.

"I just think it's interesting having that information, whether people use it or not, I think it is beneficial," said Emily Smith of Summit County.

Others said you don't need to conduct a study because it's common sense.

"Steep hills don't help, living here on the bench going down 5th South, S curve, the things like that, I've seen accidents there too, so just try to avoid the really steep stuff I guess," said Ben Emery of Summit County.

There are also those who said it's not the roads that cause the accidents - it's the drivers.

Medina said he expects the findings of the study to be revealed within the next year.