Dangerous intersections in St. George? 32-year patrol sergeant says ‘no’

The intersection of Bluff Street and Airport Road, St. George, Utah, Oct. 6, 2015 | Photo by Ric Wayman, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — There are no dangerous intersections in St. George — just distracted drivers, according to St. George Police Sgt. Craig Harding, leader of the city’s traffic division.

St. George Police Sgt. Craig Harding shares his 32 years of traffic patrol experience, St. George, Utah, Oct. 6, 2015 | Photo by Ric Wayman, St. George News
St. George Police Sgt. Craig Harding shares his 32 years of traffic patrol experience, St. George, Utah, Oct. 6, 2015 | Photo by Ric Wayman, St. George News

Harding has seen many things in his 32 years on the police force. During which time, the population exploded from 22,000 people to over 100,000 with an accompanying increase in traffic.

Population partially accounts for the increase in traffic accidents, Harding said. The other defining factor is not what intersection someone is driving through, he said, it’s drivers being distracted.

Think of a distracted driver and the image you’ll probably get is someone driving down the road texting. But texting is not the number one distraction, Harding said. Rather, it’s an overall lack of focus on the task at hand, namely driving.

“Distracted driving is a worn-out term,” Harding said. “If you can’t remember the last three blocks, you’re driving distracted. If you can’t remember the last three blocks, your mind has wandered and is not focused on the task of driving.”

Harding said distractions come in many forms.

“The baby who is crying that we need to put a pacifier in their mouth, or the kid who wants a french fry or a drink, or changing the radio station, or looking down at our work order to see where that address is — those are distractions,” he said.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, of the 9 million crashes in this country every year, two-thirds could be prevented by changing driver behavior. Harding said that 6 million crashes could be eliminated if drivers did something differently.

“What do they have to do differently? Refocus on driving,” Harding said. “Get their heads back behind the wheel and not in the meeting, not in the shopping list, not in the two ball games they have to get their toddlers to tonight. But refocus on their driving.”

Harding met with St. George News at the intersection of St. George Boulevard and Airport Road. However, the conversation was interrupted several times by traffic including: a small car squealing its tires around the corner; a driver of a truck who decided to run a red light until seeing Harding standing by the side of the road and slammed on their brakes, stopping in the middle of the intersection; and the driver of a family sedan who sneaked through a left turn arrow after it had turned red, causing oncoming traffic to slow quickly.

“So we start to say that is a dangerous intersection,” Harding said, “when there is nothing inherently dangerous about that intersection. It’s designed very well. It’s got a traffic control signal. There’s just a whole bunch of people committing a whole bunch of moving violations in that location, and the chance of a collision increases dramatically.”

In a recent traffic blitz, Harding pointed to the success in reducing collisions. One area had seen 34 traffic accidents the month before the enforcement drive. The next month, with traffic officers concentrating their efforts on that one area, there were only two accidents.

Another enforcement action on North Bluff resulted in zero accidents for an entire month.

“What changed? Not the road,” Harding said. “The people and how they drove changed. That was the variable.”

The three things Harding said result in the most tickets are failure to yield, following too closely and making improper turns.

“Yet, when we pull someone over for an improper turn (such as) turning right into the left lane, they think that’s such a minor thing,” Harding said. ” Yet we are preventing crashes by focusing on that very behavior. Those are the drivers whose behavior we have to change to reduce the crashes.”

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Email: rwayman@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews | @NewsWayman

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2015, all rights reserved.

 

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11 Comments

  • anybody home October 11, 2015 at 10:38 pm

    The three things mentioned here at that intersection while the officer was there in the interview are NOT examples of distracted driving. They’re examples of the aggressive and “get outta my way” driving behavior in St. George. Trying to run a red light, running a red arrow for a left turn, driving so fast the tires squeal around a corner – not distracted. Just typical law-breakers in the city. Did the officer try to arrest any of them…In your dreams.

  • The Dude October 12, 2015 at 6:38 am

    One problem is the population growth without business growth. Too many people ending up going to the same destination. Now you have intersection overload. The number of people on Saturday going to, and coming from Costco is overwhelming. They need to build a store like that on the west side of towñ. But this city council is only concerned with art museums and parks. It’s all about attracting more home buyers. That then become a traffic issue if you don’t attract business to those outlining areas.

    • BIG GUY October 12, 2015 at 7:50 am

      Costco would open a second store in a heartbeat if it thought it could make money doing so. Home Depot, Walmart, and Albertsons have opened stores on the west side and a second Harmon’s is under construction. The city council of the lucky city (St. George, Santa Clara or Ivins) would bend over backwards to clear the way for Costco: all cities crave sales tax revenue. Home buyers and new businesses are a “chicken and egg” conundrum, but rest assured that major national retailers rarely miss opportunities to expand their businesses.

    • tcrider October 12, 2015 at 8:53 am

      you are totally correct, there is some pretty poor city planning for future development, too many city officials are related to different developers, for example, s&s homes, ence,and so on?

    • anybody home October 12, 2015 at 12:35 pm

      Basically the ox-cart mentality which doesn’t work well in the 21st century. But don’t expect good, up-to-date city planning any time soon in St. George.

  • tcrider October 12, 2015 at 8:48 am

    absolute worst drivers are in this city, and for two reasons. 1.cell phones, 2. no blinkers

    It is much safer driving in vegas or other metro areas, the locals of other metro areas know how to drive in congested traffic, sad part is, alot of local drivers here are elderly, and city grew up around them.

    • Rainbow Dash October 12, 2015 at 6:14 pm

      You forgot the third option which is the overwhelming odds that flashing their get out of jail free…I mean “Temple Recommend” will get them out of a ticket.

  • LocalTourist October 12, 2015 at 9:38 am

    So….. go to Costco on Tuesday instead of Saturday. Traffic is only bad if you’re stuck in it. Don’t be part of the problem.
    But I agree that there’s a need for more traffic enforcement. What’s the city doing with all the tax revenue as the city has increased in size?

    • fun bag October 12, 2015 at 3:42 pm

      St George only enforces traffic after a crash except in rare cases, like when the driver doesn’t look LDS

  • fun bag October 12, 2015 at 5:41 pm

    let’s convert some LDS churches into costcos = problem solved

    • Randys Sister October 13, 2015 at 10:41 am

      Oh my gosh, STOP with the side rants already! Speaking of people not being able to keep their focus, you, Rainbow Dash, and a few others are constantly turning the comment section into something that has nothing to do with the article. It gets pretty old!

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