There are a lot of commuters in Tooele County. Anyone who has seen northbound state Route 36 on a weekday morning can attest to that.
I’m a commuter, though I’m heading the opposite direction of the bumper-to-bumper standstill into Salt Lake County. So I’m not here to compare my experiences to those commuting out of the county — at all.
I still spend a lot of time in my car, however, as my daily one-way trip is about 35 minutes. Despite already losing more than an hour a day in the confines of my 2008 Ford Focus, I made the decision a few months ago to spend a bit more time in it.
Like most people, I’d usually hover somewhere above 5 mph over the speed limit on SR-36 and Interstate 80. Even then, I’d have my doors blown off by people driving quite a bit faster, though I’d usually find myself in a pack of vehicles of similar speed.
For no reason in particular, I decided I would make a more conscious effort to drive the speed limit a couple months ago. If the sign said 60 mph, that’s what I’d do. No more speeding, no matter how slight, just because everyone else was doing it.
What I found, while I had no expectations, was surprising. My commute, while likely a few minutes slower, was more pleasant and relaxing.
When you’re driving the speed limit, the vast majority of vehicles are passing you. You can sit in the right lane with a smooth, uninterrupted drive in most cases. When UHP troopers are sitting in their usual spots, you don’t even have to lift off the accelerator.
In the few instances where someone is driving more slowly, they’re easier to pass because you’re generally driving by yourself instead of “running with traffic.”
When I was speeding, I’d find myself getting agitated with other drivers. Everyone else on the road was an obstacle between me and my destination.
Now, I just relax and enjoy the ride. If I want to be in at a certain time, I leave a couple minutes earlier but don’t have to sweat a minor disturbance to the trip.
I know that can’t always be the case — everyone has busy lives, complications to their schedule and days where they’re late for work and really can’t afford to be. So, I’m not saying this works for everyone on every day.
I think most people should give it a try when they have the opportunity, though. Going to the store on a Saturday and not in a rush? Just slow down. Be compassionate toward other drivers, give room to those looking to merge and maybe don’t roll through a stale yellow light that will obviously turn red while you’re still in the intersection.
Driving is one of the most dangerous things we do on a regular basis. In 2017, there were 273 fatalities on Utah’s roads, with a majority (54 percent) during the day time and on dry roads (81 percent). According to Utah Department of Transportation Director Carlos Braceras, as many as 94 percent of traffic fatalities are the result of human error, including aggressive, distracted or impaired driving.
I think most of us have seen another vehicle drifting out of its lane, maybe straddling the white line, and passed by to see the driver on their phone.
Speed is another factor that plays into it, as 62 fatal accidents in Utah in 2016 were the result of excessive speed.
It’s not like UDOT pulls the speed limits out of thin air, either. UDOT considers road surface, pedestrian activity, roadside development, reported crashes and other factors when establishing a posted speed limit — and roadways are supposed to be re-evaluated every five years.
More than anything, I’ve noticed speeding makes people feel entitled. Everyone else who isn’t shoving their gas pedal down an extra inch is some sort of slow, dim-witted nuisance who is screwing up your day on purpose.
This despite the fact that I’ve been speeding on I-80 and in the process of passing other vehicles and had cars drive up my tailpipe going over 90 mph. They’re likely the same people who complain ad nauseam about “slow” vehicles in the left lane on Facebook.
One time, my father was late for a work meeting, and being the smart aleck he is, apologized for being late because he “got stuck behind a car going 40 mph in a 30 mph zone.” A coworker, who hopefully missed the joke, responded that he hated when that happens.
Everyone who has ever driven has likely sped at some point. It happens, and no one should be clapped in irons for being a nudge over the posted limit.
It could be nice, however, if a few more people realized that 60 mph is still pretty quick in a 60 mph zone, and you might just enjoy your trip a bit more. Stay safe out there, Tooele County.