It is a tragic irony that Memorial Day — the day set aside to remember those who have gone before us — marks the beginning of a season that has become known as “The 100 Deadliest Days.”
This accident of the calendar flows from the fact that the season from Memorial Day to Labor Day, late May to early September, is the part of the year when more people are on the road, traveling longer distances for more hours and, perhaps inevitably, getting involved in more accidents.
The Utah Department of Transportation and the Utah Highway Patrol have put out the appropriate alerts and the UHP will have more officers on the roadways this holiday, hoping against hope to cut down on the number of accidents, injuries and fatalities.
But even the most devoted and alert trooper will find a lot of his or her time spent picking up the pieces — vehicle and human — from an accident unless more drivers take more care.
The ways to do that, from the UHP and from common sense, include:
• Slow down. The state has raised the speed limits on many sections of the interstate highway network. But it has not eliminated them. Excessive speed — as compared with the posted limits or without heed to weather, dark and other driving conditions — is a common factor in many accidents. Whether it is a quiet residential neighborhood or I-80 West, keeping a legal and rational speed gives up little time and can save many lives.
• Pay attention. Distracted driving, which mostly means talking or texting on a cellphone while attempting to operate a motor vehicle, is another common cause of accidents. The laws banning such foolishness in Utah should be more strict but, laws or no laws, common sense and scientific research lead to the conclusion that no message or chit-chat is worth the life of the driver, his passengers and those innocent people in the other car.
• Lay off the booze. And the weed. And the pills. And even the sleepiness. Any or all of those things lead to impaired driving, a situation where someone who might otherwise be easily able to avoid hazards and conflict points just can’t think and move quickly enough to avert disaster. Sometimes that means calling a cab, appointing a designated driver or, in the case of drowsiness and road hypnosis, just pulling over to the side for a little while.
• Buckle up. Even the best, most clear-headed driver will sometimes be unable to avoid a collision with an unanticipated obstacle or a less-qualified motorist. Wear those seat belts, and insist that everyone else in the vehicle does, too.
This time of year is supposed to be carefree and fun. To keep it that way, let’s be careful out there.