Park City details truck brake-check violations: ‘I saw the signs but sorry I didn’t stop for them’
Police Department provides summary of the explanations given by drivers after traffic stops
On Sept. 28 at 1:30 p.m., Phil Kirk, who is a captain in the Park City Police Department, was patrolling Marsac Avenue south of Old Town as part of the agency’s ongoing efforts to guard against runaway trucks on the steep road.
Some drivers headed northbound on Marsac Avenue, or the downhill direction, between Deer Valley and Old Town are required to stop at a brake-check area toward the top of the steepest section of the road. The requirement applies to drivers with trucks topping 10,000 pounds of gross vehicle weight.
Kirk on that day watched a truck continue northbound without stopping to check the brakes. The veteran police officer pulled the driver over. The person offered Kirk a blunt reason for not stopping.
“Sorry but I wasn’t paying attention,” the person told Kirk, according to a summary of the traffic stop that was made public as part of a report submitted to Mayor Andy Beerman and the Park City Council centered on Marsac Avenue safety issues.
The report provides limited information about nearly 60 traffic stops of trucks on Marsac Avenue between late July and the middle of October. Kirk conducted each of the traffic stops after observing the vehicles proceed without stopping at the brake-check area. The list provides intriguing insight into the thinking of drivers as they either did not realize they were required to stop or opted not to make the required stop even though they understood it was mandatory.
The patrols by Kirk of Marsac Avenue, which is part of the state highway system and also signed S.R. 224, continue the decades of efforts by City Hall and others like state transportation officials designed to improve safety on the road. Marsac Avenue links Old Town and upper Deer Valley, and it has long been heavily used by construction traffic.
The report submitted to the mayor and Park City Council includes a brief summary of the explanations provided to the police by the drivers who were pulled over. The list shows the drivers offered a range of answers when the police inquired about their failure to stop. In some of the cases, the driver told the police they did not see signs requiring they stop at the brake-check area.
Some of the explanations include:
• “I didn’t think tour buses had to stop.”
• “I didn’t think I needed to stop unless I had a load.”
• “I didn’t see the sign since I was talking to passenger.”
• “I didn’t see the sign; must have been looking elsewhere.”
• “I didn’t know I had to stop; I have ADHD.”
• “The other drivers told me I didn’t need to stop.”
• “I didn’t think it applied to smaller trucks like mine.”
• “I saw the signs but I only go 25 mph down the hill.”
• “Just moved here from Hawaii — didn’t see the signs.”
• “I didn’t see the signs. Just renting the truck.”
• “I thought that was for trucks with air brakes.”
• “I saw the signs but my (passenger) told me I didn’t need to stop.”
The route downhill has proven to be difficult to navigate, and there has been a series of terrible truck accidents blamed on failed brakes. A runaway-truck ramp built just south of Old Town has not prevented all the accidents. Trucks that have lost the brakes in some cases have careened into Old Town, smashing into the roundabout at the intersection of Marsac Avenue and Deer Valley Drive or crashing elsewhere along the heavily traveled S.R. 224 corridor inside Park City. In one recent case, in July, a dump truck crashed into two cars in the area of the Old Town roundabout, requiring three injured people to be transported from the scene. The truck in the July accident crashed through a stone wall on the edge of the roundabout before coming to rest.
There is worry that an accident someday could involve especially serious injuries or fatalities, as well as cause damage to private property or public improvements like the walls along the road and the roundabout. There are houses just steps from the road in some locations on Marsac Avenue, City Hall is along the road corridor, and traffic can be heavy at many points on Marsac Avenue itself, into the roundabout and on Deer Valley Drive.
The Police Department sometimes teams with the Utah Highway Patrol, which also holds jurisdiction on Marsac Avenue since it is part of the state highway system, to conduct safety stings, but the local agency maintains greater visibility throughout the year. Kirk’s efforts between July and October appear to show greater urgency than is typical, but the Police Department has an ongoing presence on Marsac Avenue. He acknowledged recent accidents like the one in July spurred the efforts.
“Most people are pretty honest about it,” Kirk said as he described the drivers’ explanations for not stopping at the brake-check area.
Kirk said he pulled most of the drivers over as Marsac Avenue nears the intersection with Hillside Avenue after following them from the brake-check area. According to data supplied by Kirk, drivers of so-called box trucks were the primary violators. He said they accounted for 61% of the stops. Flatbed trucks accounted for another 26% and other, unspecified sorts of trucks represented 7%. Dump trucks, long seeming to generate the most worry, accounted for 5%, he said. The percentages are approximate.
In the first days of the traffic stops, Kirk warned the drivers about the requirement to stop at the brake-check area. Each of the traffic stops starting on Aug. 23 resulted in a citation, though.
In another case, the driver who was pulled over told Kirk he simply ignored the requirement to stop to check brakes.
“I saw the signs but sorry I didn’t stop for them,” a driver told Kirk after being stopped at 9:45 a.m. on Sept. 13.
The Park City Police Department in a report listing the series of traffic stops indicated two of the drivers told the agency they did not stop since they are not English speakers or could not read English.
In one of the cases, reported on Aug. 3 at 9:30 a.m., the driver told the police they “can’t read English so I didn’t know to stop.” The officer who pulled the driver over issued a citation. In the other case, at 10 a.m. on Oct. 5, the driver told the officer, “I’m sorry I only speak Spanish.” The person received a citation.
Latinos are the only minority group living in the Park City area in significant numbers. Spanish is widely spoken within the Latino community.
The Utah Department of Public Safety, which includes the driver license division, says someone “must have the ability to read and understand simple English used in highway traffic and directional signs” as part of the state’s test of driving skills.
With more bicyclists hitting the pathways in Park City, the municipality recently installed crossing gates to increase safety at several locations.
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