I read with great interest Karen Brooks’ letter to the editor last Wednesday and felt that I had to add my two-cents’ worth. The letter was a plea to all who commute up and down Parley’s Canyon to band together and hold "officials" accountable for the dangers we encounter on this road. While I applaud Ms. Brooks’ effort to start a grassroots movement to address the safety issues, I cannot help but feel she is missing one key ingredient to the equation, and that is us.
We are the problem in Parley’s Canyon. You, me, the driver of the Porsche who is conducting business on his cell phone while drinking a non-fat latte and weaving in and out of traffic at 80 mph.
I’d love to see a greater UHP presence on this highway, but we have to honestly look in the mirror to solve the real problem.
When we get into our cars in the morning, we cease being members of a community and become selfish, single-minded individuals encased in our cocoon of steel and glass. We are no longer neighbors, friends or Parkites; we are warriors and no one will get in our way. That person driving the speed limit in the middle lane? He is not my co-worker, my child’s teacher, a confused tourist, no, he is an absolute impediment to my perfect commute. I will tailgate him, I will flash my lights at him, I will pass him on the right and cut him off mere seconds from rear ending the semi in the slow lane. That will teach him. How dare he slow me down?
I drive an Audi, for cripe’s sake! In my 17 years of commuting down this canyon, I can count on one hand (OK, both hands) the times a tractor-trailer rig has almost killed me. If I tried to calculate the times one of my fellow Parkites has tried to kill me, it simply boggles the mind. We pride ourselves on our sense of community and how nice we are to each other, but unity and pride of kinship mysteriously disappear when the door to the Mercedes closes.
This is not a problem that can be cured by "officials." We must take responsibility for our own actions. If it is 12 degrees the morning after a snowstorm, do we really need signs telling us there may be ice on the road? On that same morning, what will be the consequences of arriving for work three minutes later because you decided to slow down and help everyone have a safer commute? Will you be fired? Lose your parking space? Not make employee of the month?
Two years ago, I had an epiphany. I realized that I would like to survive my commute to Salt Lake and back. I decided that the 65 mph speed limit was a LIMIT, not a challenge. I decided that my canyon trips would not be ego trips. I decided to treat my fellow commuters as friends and neighbors. I decided to actually drive and not multi-task. I decided to look out the window at the majesty that is our backyard and enjoy the view. Call me crazy.
So next time you are blasting down the hill and see a big red truck in the slow lane exercising his right to drive five mph under the speed limit, do what you think is appropriate — tailgate, wave the one-finger salute, spill your morning espresso in your lap at the unmitigated audacity of the driver’s willingness to flaunt society, or join me and just slow down!
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