By Associated Press - Sunday, January 21, 2018

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - The 273 deaths on Utah roadways in 2017 marked a slight decrease from the year before but it was still higher than the yearly average of 239 fatalities between 2009 and 2014.

A preliminary report released on Wednesday by the Utah Department of Transportation and the Department of Public Safety says of those 273 fatalities, 69 percent were men and 31 percent were women.

“We don’t take any solace in the fact that it’s a little better,” Utah Department of Transportation Executive Director Carlos Braceras said Wednesday. “It needs to be much better.”

There were 281 fatalities on Utah roads in 2016. The state averaged 239 fatalities a year from 2009-2014.

Vehicles and roads are safer today than they ever have been, Braceras said. There were 329 fatalities in 2001, showing the overall trend is down, he noted. But Braceras said he doesn’t want to dwell too much on numbers.

“These are people. These are mothers, fathers, our kids,” he said.

Along with the release of the report, officials announced the launch of a “Join the Resistance” campaign they’ve been teasing for the past few months. The campaign urges motorists to “resist the urge” of distractions such as phones and food.

Twenty people lost their lives last year due to distracted driving, according to the Utah Department of Public Safety.

“It’s so important that we just resist that distraction,” Braceras said. “Put your phone down. Don’t eat that sandwich. Wait to you get where you’re going. . I will challenge anyone to tell me, what is more important than saving a life? What do you do behind the wheel that is more important?”

There already have been eight fatalities on Utah’s roads this year.

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