Too many people are worried about too many things inside of their cars rather than just driving. When you're driving a car next to a cyclist trying to share the road, you can't have any distractions. —Utah Highway Patrol Col. Danny Fuhr

SALT LAKE CITY — Six bicyclists are killed and nearly 850 are involved in crashes with motor vehicles in an average year in Utah.

In response, the state is relaunching a grass-roots safety campaign to reduce the number of cyclists injured on Utah roadways.

The Road Respect campaign aims to educate drivers and cyclists about the rules of the road and encourage mutual respect so everyone gets home safely, said Utah Highway Patrol Col. Danny Fuhr.

Speaking at a news conference Monday at the state Capitol, Fuhr recalled when he was struck by a car in Davis County as he pedaled down a road in Syracuse.

"A car turned left in front of me and hit me head-on," he explained. "I bounced up over the windshield and almost ended up underneath the car."

Fuhr sustained minor injuries to his hip, elbow and shoulder but otherwise avoided serious harm.

"I was very, very lucky," he said. "When cars and bikes collide, the outcome is usually pretty tragic."

Distracted driving was likely the cause of his collision, Fuhr said, and, too often, it's the reason for crashes involving bicycles and vehicles.

"Too many people are worried about too many things inside of their cars rather than just driving," he said. "When you're driving a car next to a cyclist trying to share the road, you can't have any distractions."

Any sudden swerve or encroachment could result in a tragedy, Fuhr added.

"If you can imagine a car hitting a pedestrian or cyclist, the results will never be good for the person who was hit," he said.

State law requires vehicles to give cyclists a 3-foot buffer, Fuhr said, and bicycles should stay to the right and avoid veering into traffic if possible.

Bicycle advocates say raising awareness could help save lives and remind anyone who uses the roads — including runners, cyclists and motorists — that respecting each other's rights of way is the key to improving safety.

"We really want drivers and cyclists to share the road … and people to ride safely and drive safely," said Phil Sarnoff, executive director of Bike Utah.

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