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Front Page » April 10, 2007 » Opinion » We are part of the problem, not the solution
Published 2,760 days ago

We are part of the problem, not the solution


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By RICHARD SHAW
Emery County Progress publisher

The accident on Highway 6, in the Red Narrows last spring once again demonstrates how vulnerable we in eastern Utah are to disruptions of our transit system. The gasoline explosion in almost the same place as the explosive trucks demise the August before shows that something needs to be done with the road, particularly in that part of the canyon.

I know this is a refrain many of you have heard over and over again. But in light of the death of the driver of the truck, I think we need to look at everything that creates danger in that canyon.

But I want to aim this commentary at a different group of people than many writers who have complained about it have.

I could concentrate on design and the rebuilding of the road; certainly the four lane option as proposed by the Utah Department of Transportation is a great one. And either tunnels through Red Narrows or a double decker road like the one in Glenwood Springs Canyon in Colorado would help too.

More signage, which has now been installed around the infamous curve in that part of the canyon, is also of aid. The signage that UDOT has put up over the years has been of great help in letting people know they will have passing options, so they don't get so impatient.

Better enforcement, with the state putting more emphasis on placing officers in the canyon is another suggestion, and probably a good one unless you are the one getting the citation at the time.

Better education for drivers of the canyon as to the problem the route presents as they drive through it could be helpful too. Big billboards at each end warning drivers about the difficulties and the history of the canyon could possibly add to the safety. That would particularly help with out-of-state drivers who don't know how dangerous the road can be.

Some want to ban large trucks from the canyon, making them go around, using I-70. I personally think that is unrealistic, particularly in these days of high diesel and gas prices. In addition it would just hurt the economy in our area in a number of ways.

Those are all things that have been done, are in the works or ideas people have had about Highway 6. I know there are probably a lot more, so I am sorry if I left yours out.

But the best idea for safety I have heard, and probably the simplest, came from a Utah Highway Patrol official I talked with last spring. It was just this.

People who live in eastern Utah just need to slow down and drive sanely in the canyon. Of all those who transit that road, we should be the most responsible.

I can already hear the groans about this statement. We in this area want to blame the over-the-road truckers, people from Colorado and California or someone else. But we tend to forget about ourselves.

The problem is that we get used to the road. We know it is dangerous, but we drive it so much that we think we know better than other drivers because we are so familiar with it. In actuality, every single inch of that highway from Moark Junction to Green River is dangerous, especially when we don't follow the speed limit and drive it like we could do it in our sleep, which I have the feeling some from our locality do.

It's not that others on the road are not a problem. I have followed people over the canyon who are from Kansas that have never driven over a mountain before, that go way too slow, causing me and everyone behind me to become impatient. I have encountered many with Colorado plates who pass at a whim because they don't think 60 (or 85) mph is fast enough. I have had the trucker from Texas who rode my back bumper all the way down Price Canyon because he is behind schedule. And yes, I have almost been taken out by the Salt Laker who is pulling a fifth wheel behind his ton pickup with 14 motorcycles in tow on another trailer and who passes on the double line just above Emma Park Road.

Everyone who lives here has had at least a dozen of these experiences. But the fact is that if you ask law enforcement officials, they will tell you that the majority of the people that violate the law, either in speed, control or passing, in the canyon, are locals. We drive it way too fast, we are too eager to pass and we take too many chances. And the majority of the time, those are the things that cause accidents.

Consequently we are part of the problem, and not so much of the solution. We can criticize and give all the arguments and potential solutions about Highway 6 we can think of, but until we clean our own house, and become better drivers that obey the laws in the canyon, how can we expect anyone else too?


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April 10, 2007
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