Letter to the Editor: St. George drivers have taken on the mantra of ‘Get out of my way or I’ll kill you!’

Photo by SanneBerg/iStock/Getty Images Plus, St. George News

OPINION — In all the time I’ve been in the traffic safety game I’ve never been able to find a satisfactory answer to a very fundamental question: Why do we drive the way we do? More to the point – why do we drive the way we do in St. George?

As our city has grown and the driving risks have multiplied – rather than taking greater care to avoid danger – drivers here have gone from courteous and comfortable to “Get out of my way or I’ll kill you!”

Traffic laws and rules of the road are virtually ignored. Why? Wherever you go in this town it’s still no more than 10 minutes away, so what’s the point in wasting all that expensive gas, wearing out your brakes before their time, shortening the life of your car on our not-so-well paved streets and maybe shortening your own life while you’re at it? I’m no shrink but here are a few theories:

Theory #1 – The Violence Factor

Several generations have grown up saturated in violence – real and contrived. As a result of this overexposure we’ve become desensitized to the consequences of reckless behavior in general and reckless driving in particular. Yes, the threat’s there but it isn’t real, goes the myth. It’ll never happen to me, so what’s the problem? We’ve understood this phenomenon for a long time and its influence on our driving – but so what? There’s big money in violence so rock on!

Solutions – There are none.

We’ve become insatiable consumers of violence, but we’re in denial. So this condition will be a very long time going away, if ever. Too many of us will learn the hard way.

Only when you’ve experienced up-close-and-personal the heart-stopping instant when you first realize what’s about to happen and it registers that you’re powerless to prevent it, and you desperately want to stop the clock – only then will you understand the real meaning and consequences of roadway violence. Until then you will continue to drive as you do.

Theory #2 – The Attitude Factor

The 1960s brought revolutionary social change. It was the beginning of the “material” era. Attitudes changed. We became wasteful – If it stops working, throw it away. We became selfish – If it makes you feel good, do it. But most of all we became unwilling to wait – Do it now, have it now and get there now!

These attitudes have manifested themselves in a multitude of ways which we could never have imagined including the onset of an aggressive driving style never before seen in history. These attitudes have become accepted and now dominate our behavior.

Solutions – There are none.

After more than a half century these traits are thoroughly ingrained. According to my friends in local law enforcement “impatience” is the leading cause of death and injury here as well as statewide. Impatience is an attitude – a bad attitude! Failure to yield is the No. 1 cause of collisions in Washington County. Do you see the connection?

Only when you’ve experienced that sickening “crump” as your two-ton machine collides with another and – provided you’re still conscious – you see, hear and feel the sights, sounds and feelings of dread that go along with it. Only then will you understand the real consequences of this kind of driving behavior. Until then you will continue to drive as you do.

Theory #3 – The Race-for-the-Rush Factor

In my opinion our quest for the ultimate “rush” has had more to do with obsessive-compulsive behind-the-wheel behavior than any other single factor. Name almost any activity today and we’ve likely invented an “extreme” version to go along with it.

These are ordinary activities which we turn into potentially deadly pursuits for the sole purpose of achieving the all-important rush. The greater the risk, the greater the rush. Like violence, though, “extreme” sells, so it won’t be going away any time soon.

Solutions – There are none

If you’re determined to go to the extreme and defy the odds, that’s your business, but get it off the streets! If you must speed, take it to the desert. If you must tailgate, take it to the track. If you must risk death or injury, do it where you won’t take someone else with you.

Only when you’ve experienced that mind-numbing instant when you realize you’re going too fast to stop before you kill the child who just darted into the street – only then will you understand that “extreme” has no place on public streets and highways. Until then you will continue to drive as you do.

Is the race for the rush worth the risk?

Submitted by BOB SEARS, St. George resident, business owner, author and freelance writer. He can be reached at boge007@msn.com.

Letters to the Editor are not the product of St. George News, its editors, staff or news contributors. The matters stated and opinions given are the responsibility of the person submitting them. They do not reflect the product or opinion of St. George News and are given only light edit for technical style and formatting.

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Letters to the Editor are not the product of St. George News, its editors, staff or news contributors. The matters stated and opinions given are the responsibility of the person submitting them. They do not reflect the product or opinion of St. George News and are given only light edit for technical style and formatting.

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30 Comments

  • chris keele September 30, 2018 at 9:42 am

    I agree with Mister Sears, and would like to commend him on a very concise and well articulated assessment of not only our driving habits, but a particularly disturbing mindset of people trying to out do each other in ( who is the most radical ) in everything that is said and done not just in St. George, but almost everywhere I have ventured as of late, and his reasons are probably spot on as well. Good job, now we just need to work on reversing these trends.

  • St. G September 30, 2018 at 10:07 am

    As a big rig driver, I have driven across every state many times and through every major city in America (with the exception of Houston).

    Most car drivers are poorly trained, to say the least. (Granted, with over 100% turnover each year, most big rig drivers aren’t either.)

    That being said, for a modestly-sized city with tourism, St. George traffic is a piece of cake and drivers here are no worse than any other state. Drive defensively…everywhere.

    • Bender September 30, 2018 at 8:54 pm

      Amen brother. Nothing remarkable, one way or the other, about Saint George drivers compared to almost any of place of comparable size.

  • NickDanger September 30, 2018 at 10:22 am

    Bob, I considered all your reasons for aggressive driving, and have decided that they are all wrong.

    As an aggressive driver myself, I searched my soul for the true reason I do it, and I’ve determined that the reason is…wait for it…lazy left-lane drivers.

    Why am I willing to pass a car on the right, hit a gap just barely big enough for my car to fit through, and leave the car on my left eating dust and probably wondering if they’ve just witnessed a high misdemeanor? Because that person is probably NOT going to get out of my way. Most likely that person is going to drive in the left lane right beside the car in the right lane, for no reason whatsoever (not even the reason that they are eventually going to make a left turn). That person is going to do that for miles and miles, while I sit behind them asking God why he would create such a driver? What have I done, Lord?!

    So if I see that tiny gap, I hit it. Hard. When I’m sitting at a red light with a group of other vehicles, I don’t know which ones are lazy left-lane drivers and which ones aren’t. So I’m going to do whatever I can to get in front of everyone sitting there, as the line loosens up. When I’m on the interstate approaching the Gorge, I’m going to pass as many cars as possible before I get there because I simply don’t know, Bob. I don’t know which ones of them are lazy left-lane drivers, and which ones are acceptable humans. It only takes one lazy left-lane driver to ruin a trip. But usually, there are plenty more than one.

    That’s why I drive aggressively. Because long experience on the road tells me that if I don’t pass you, there’s a pretty good chance you are going to really stress me out down the road. There’s even a good chance you are going to do it on purpose – seeing that I am anxious to pass you, you are actually going to slow down to prevent it. Yerp, that happens ALL THE TIME.

    Now, I’ve been driving accident-free for (mental math), uh, 37 years now. So my driving skills, techniques, idiosyncracies, etc., are not on the table for debate. I know for a fact that I’m not going to be the one to cause an accident, and I know for a fact that I’m not going to be slowing anyone else down either.

    And if I could be assured that everyone on the road in my vicinity was going to be reasonable, when and if the time comes for me to pass, I would not drive aggressively. But as Clint Eastwood so famously said, “A man’s got to know his limitations.” My limitation is that when I am sitting behind a driver who is either intentionally or unintentionally not allowing me to pass by squatting in the passing lane while passing no one, I start dreaming of having high-powered machine guns on the front of my car that would simply blast them to smithereens. That’s not healthy.

    So I drive fast and loose, because I just don’t know which ones of you are the … . Passing only one person could save me 20 minutes, I never know. So I pass you all.

    If you’d really like to do something about this, talk to the DMV folks. Let them know that they shouldn’t be handing out driver’s licenses to any sub-intellectual moron who walks in the door without pounding it into their brain first that the left lane is THE PASSING LANE.

    Ed. Ellipsis.

    • DB September 30, 2018 at 4:11 pm

      Enjoy your upcoming heart attack.

      • DB September 30, 2018 at 4:30 pm

        I’ll correct myself…Enjoy your upcoming heart attack, because it sounds as though you are about to have one.

        • NickDanger September 30, 2018 at 7:39 pm

          Thanks for your concern. I think I’ll be better after I get those machine guns.

    • Craig September 30, 2018 at 7:54 pm

      You sound dangerous and blame others.

    • Chris September 30, 2018 at 8:33 pm

      The left lane is only “the passing lane” on the freeway, not in town. I agree that too many freeway drivers “camp out” in the passing lane. Most of those that I encounter seem to have California plates, for reasons that I do not understand. Regardless, your self described aggressive driving is not justified by the incompetence of others, and you are endangering everyone including yourself. I suggest you examine your personal inadequacies to get to root of this problem.

      • NickDanger October 1, 2018 at 6:48 am

        Sorry Chris but you’re just one more person who doesn’t know the rules of the road. The left lane is ALWAYS the passing lane. The only exception to this is drivers who want to make a left turn, in which case they are supposed to move into the left lane only within a reasonable distance of their turn. In light traffic this should be less than a quarter-mile, in heavier traffic up to a half-mile. So how many other rules have you made up for your own convenience out of thin air?

    • Bender September 30, 2018 at 8:57 pm

      Yeah man, drive right and pass left. Don’t constipate the flow of traffic. Learn to change lanes safely and comfortably.

    • BobJoeSmith October 3, 2018 at 7:27 pm

      I understand that people in the left lane are generally inconsiderate, but wishing for machine guns on your car is not a healthy thought. My biggest frustrations in this town are people who can’t drive the speed limit(either going too fast, I mean 10mph over the posted limit. Or the douchebags that drive 10mph UNDER the speed limit.) Another issue I encounter is the fact that people seem to have forgotten that you need to come to a complete stop for 3 seconds at a stop sign, or red light while turning right! People on their phone while driving are downright stupid, I have seen cops do this! It’s called a Bluetooth for a reason people! And the last issue I have is the people that clearly should not be driving those gigantic SUV’S (I’m talking to you soccer moms with a billion kids). The fact of the matter is that everyone needs to pay ATTENTION and no one is more important than ANYBODY else on the road. Get off the phone, control your annoying spawns, and pay attention to how you are driving!

  • LocalTourist September 30, 2018 at 11:20 am

    Unfortunately, it’s not just St George.
    Between truck drivers being overextended to try and make a decent living, and the people that are in such a hurry to be one car ahead of you… the roads have become much more dangerous than they used to be.
    Distracted driving isnt helping. I see people not only texting, but reading books while driving. Utah needs to pass a law that prohibits driving with ANYTHING other than the steering wheel in the driver’s hands.
    Before someone starts in about GPS use and answering a phone call etc, I had a hands-free device attached to my old flip phone 8 years ago. It cost $30 and solved these issues.
    We were able to drive without GPS prior to 10 years ago, we should be able to do it now.

    Put down the phone, put away the attitude, and PAY ATTENTION.

  • R. Carter September 30, 2018 at 1:34 pm

    I complain. There I am.

  • DRT September 30, 2018 at 2:02 pm

    “Put down the phone, put away the attitude, and PAY ATTENTION.”

    I don’t believe we will see this in our lifetimes.
    So many people who are blatant cowards in person, bet behind the wheel and become angry idiots, willing to take a chance to save a few minutes. Or just because they feel they can get away with something behind the wheel that would get their lights punched out in person.
    It IS all about the attitude. The attitude of “me first,” “I’m entitled,” “I’m such a good driver that safety, let alone laws don’t apply to me.”
    It doesn’t seem to matter which sex, or what age the driver is. So many are immature as soon as the key is in the ignition.
    You see it on the streets. You see it in forums where folks hide behind a screen name. Hell, you see it on TV, in the movies, and in electronic games.

  • tazzman September 30, 2018 at 4:00 pm

    This city has to have the worst drivers per capita in the country. Lived in a handful of states and this area is even worse than northern Utah, if that is possible.

  • AnnieMated September 30, 2018 at 5:36 pm

    Bob,

    Ive lived in St George for over a decade and while I agree that it has had its share of bad drivers, St George is not even close to other cities, large and small. I’m a professionally trained driver. Driving in St George is easy so long as you Pay attention, use common sense and drive at speed matching the flow of traffic. Most people, in my experience, drive within 5 MPH of the posted limit and most cops won’t pull you over for doing that (unless you’re also doing something else). Now there will always be people like NickDanger who think, for whatever reason, that they are simply more important then everyone else so you have to put them out of your mind. Happily, they are in the minority. On the other hand if you constantly find yourself being tailgated, honked at, cursed out, etc then perhaps it’s time for YOU to evaluate how you’re driving.

    • NickDanger September 30, 2018 at 7:48 pm

      See, Annie, it’s this kind of attitude that’s at the root of the problem. If anyone in this equation has an inflated sense of self-importance, it’s the people who are NOT following the rules of the road. As a “professionally trained driver,” whatever that means (driver’s ed?), you of all people should be aware that my interest is only in seeing other people follow the rules of the road.

      Do you feel I’m just making up this rule? That the left lane is the passing lane? Call your professional driving instructor and ask him if I’m making that up. It is, in fact, the sole reason we have two lanes on most roads – so that people can pass in the left one.

      So our society has spent literally TRILLIONS of dollars nationwide making wider roads so that we can have a free flow of traffic. Every time someone ignores this fact and drives in the passing lane without passing anyone, right beside the car in the right lane, for miles and miles, holding up traffic behind them, they are completely disrespecting a huge expenditure of taxpayer money. Money that was spent so that we could use the lane they are so casually clogging up to pass people who are driving slower than us, and drive at our own pace.

      Also, if I am in the minority, then the minority obviously consists of people who actually know and follow the longstanding rules of the road.

      • Carpe Diem October 1, 2018 at 10:10 am

        Nick Danger, you sound like the minority who always get in accidents, get lots of tickets… heart attacks… Take a deep breath… you will get there without killing yourself or others…maybe… calm down and chill! BTW stay off Bluff please – courtesy is needed there, not A holes.

        • NickDanger October 1, 2018 at 11:10 am

          Carp, if you ever get in an accident, I assure you it won’t be my fault. I thought I’d addressed this in a previous comment – 37 years driving, no accidents ever. My auto insurance rate is so low you could barely take a family of 4 to dinner on my annual premium. I haven’t had a ticket in several years. I didn’t say I’m a maniacal driver, I said I’m an aggressive driver. Personally, I credit my excellent peripheral vision and cat-like reflexes for my continued automotive success, but I’m willing to submit my driving habits to driving scientists for study if it will help other people get out of my way.

          • Carpe Diem October 1, 2018 at 1:50 pm

            Nick, the problem is that aggressive driving triggers others, you should know this. Google “Ferrari brake checked Porsche” and check the one on liveleak. It tends to encourage racing. I am from CA and know ALL ABOUT driving aggressively, and generally enjoy the much higher level of courtesy here, at least on the local roads. Yes that also comes off as timid driving, and with many elderly, requires caution and defensive awareness. Those occasions are frustrating but require patience for safety.
            Driving 10-15 over the flow on the freeway is reckless however, regardless a ‘minority’ partake. They don’t win any points from anyone… Cops keep an eye out for them.

    • Bender September 30, 2018 at 8:58 pm

      amen!

  • Redbud September 30, 2018 at 7:37 pm

    I agree with Nick, that there are lots of drivers in the left lane, who stay right next to the car in the right lane, and if I have the opportunity to get around them, I will take that opportunity. This is not just a St. George thing, and St. George does not have the worst drivers. I have lived in many different places so I know from experience. You’ve very ignorant if you think St. George is the worst, you must never travel anywhere else if that’s truly what you think. I do drive over the speed limit sometimes, so I will admit to it, but I’m usually going about 5 over. I can’t be the worst driver out there because sometimes when I am doing 5 over, I get passed by several cars. At least I move over to the right lane to let them pass. I am not trying to justify speeding, I am no angel, but traffic would be smoother if slow people stayed in the slow lane, and the left lane was used as a passing lane. You’ll notice all along I-15 up to Salt Lake there are MANY signs saying slower traffic keep right. If it wasn’t such a problem, there would be no need for those signs.

  • cooper September 30, 2018 at 8:25 pm

    I have to come to realize that usually the person writing articles like this, are the ones that are the problem. I’ll admit that I might be an aggressive driver (usually 5 over the speed limit), but that is only because I expect people to obey basic road rules, as well. Take for instance freeway on-ramps which are designed so that you can be going freeway speeds when you merge onto the freeway. If you are going 50 when you merge on a 70 mph freeway, you are the hazard. Then there are off-ramps, stopping at yield signs, not moving out of the left lane on the freeway, not noticing green turn arrows (right or left), almost coming to a stop to turn, going way below the speed limit. If you are always being tail-gated, the problem might lie with you. I think more of the driving issues are caused by people not paying attention and doing these kinds of things. Aggressive drivers are usually paying very close attention to what is going on.

  • notasgnative September 30, 2018 at 11:03 pm

    You all have valid points. I’ve had a drivers license in 4 western states, and the only one to allow open book testing is Utah. That is insane. Regarding left hand lane drivers: In Washington state, that will, or at least it would when we lived there, get you a ticket if you are holding traffic up. In Washington, I’ve seen drivers get a ticket for going to slow in the left lane. Regarding semis: Traveling the freeways on long road trips for several years, many times I’ve been stuck behind 2 semis side by side because one will start passing a slower one on a hill, and the one passing is going the same speed as the one he’s passing, usually about 15 miles an hour, depending on how steep the grade is. Complaint number 3: Drivers passing a semi and they obviously have the cruise set and not about to speed up a little to get around the semi, so if one tries to follow the passer, you’re in the truckers blind spot, which is not a good place to be. I do feel SG has more than its fair share of clueless drivers, and I’ve driven in some cities that aren’t known for safe, courteous drivers.

  • Frank October 1, 2018 at 7:53 am

    Same aggressive driving attitudes pushing shopping carts at COSTCO.

  • Mike P October 1, 2018 at 12:10 pm

    I knew the second I started reading this article that there would be a lot of comments ! And I believe everyone here has a valid response. Some I agree with more than others. I grew up being taught that SLOWER TRAFFIC keeps right and the Left lane is for passing or overtaking slower traffic. IF you are in the LEFT lane and you see traffic passing you on the right or you see 30 vehicles backed up behind you…..? that means YOU are the slower traffic regardless of whether or not you’re doing the speed limit. Courtesy as well as law teaches that you MOVE OVER. We’ve all seen the signs posted that say: “Slower traffic keep right”.

  • Scott October 1, 2018 at 5:28 pm

    I try to bike around town as much as a can. Keeps me fit and keeps one less car off the road. Please watch out for us bikers!

  • youcandoit October 4, 2018 at 1:01 am

    I’m just trying to bring back the wave when everyone used to wave as they drove by. Oh and tired of people running stop signs count to 3.

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