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Front Page » January 31, 2002 » Local News » "speedway" Races Through County on U.S. 6
Published 4,559 days ago

"speedway" Races Through County on U.S. 6


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By RICHARD SHAW
Staff reporter


For people who live along U.S. Highway 6 between Price and Wellington they often see that stretch of road as a raceway.

For those that live in downtown Wellington, the traffic noise fades into the background, but the roar of trucks passing through their front yards is ever-present.

For those that have to drive daily from East Carbon and Sunnyside to Price and beyond, the up and then down called Cat Canyon presents the daily challenges of avoiding tired and strung out drivers who still think that the two lane is I-70 and those coming from Salt Lake think that since they are past Price they can drive a hundred miles per hour and pass anywhere they want.

To locals these areas are not just an inconvenience or a bother. They are examples of places where life and death decisions are made daily. And often the decisions that are made are not decided by the people who die.

This past summer and fall two of the worst accident in years on the 25 mile section of road that runs from Price to Sunnyside Junction. In the first three men from California died when a driver from Box Elder County allegedly made a bad pass causing the Lincoln Continental the men were riding in to go out of control, hit another car and then roll into a tractor trailer rig from Green River.

It happened at the top of Cat Canyon and all three men died before emergency crews could get them out of the car.

The other accident happened in October; there wasn't a fatality but there were major injuries. And the road was tied up for four hours both ways that day because of the debris spread by two trucks that had collided just a short way north of Sunnyside Junction. One man from Murray was severely injured and has still not recovered from the crash.

Others died on this road last year as well, but one sometimes has to ask the question: What is worse? Death or such severe injuries that life is never the same after the trauma of the accident.

And why this road? Why all the death and pain?

That is another hard question for anyone to answer. Many people think they have the answers, but the solution to the problem is more complicated than any single answer. Obviously, a divided highway all the way from Spanish Fork to Green River would cut that toll, but the financial cost would be enormous. And while it is hard to put a value on anyones life, reality tells most Carbon County residents that kind of change is not going to happen anytime soon.

The solution to improving the fatality rate on the highway is largely on the shoulders of the drivers using the road. Accidents just don't happen they are caused.

Safety managers in all types of businesses and industry know this. They know that all accidents are preventable, not just some or most. Unsafe behaviors and habits lead to accidents in the workplace and the same is true of driving on the road.

For instance, industrial safety managers train people in a workplace that if they have to get at something that is high off the ground it is always wise to get a ladder to handle the problem. Many people will instead climb on a couple of boxes or a chair. And they may be able to do this a hundred, two hundred or even a thousand times. But one day the percentage of times using an unstable surface will catch up and someone will fall. The result of that spill can be a sprained ankle, a broken leg or a severe injury which could lead to death or paralysis.

The same is true of bad and unsafe driving habits. People who pass on double lines, on hills or curves, can get away with it only so often before they have a close call. They can maybe get away with it even longer before they have a bad accident or run someone else off the road; but it will eventually happen. When people speed all the time, that too will catch up with them; hopefully with a citation rather than an accident that could take theirs or someone elses lives.

From 1996 -2000 six people died on this section of road. Not as many as in other sections, but too many just the same.

Starting out from Price's east interchange drivers face the straight section that runs along the tracks almost to Wellington. The speed limit is 60 yet many drivers want to travel at much higher rates of speed. Amazingly, no deaths occurred on this rod during 1996-2000 until the city limits of Wellington are reached, just past the 245 milepost.

People usually slow down through Wellington, because the police force there is very conscious about the speeds people travel on the highway that passes thought their town. At 40 miles per hour it seems like a crawl after leaving the Price-Wellington speedway. But even at that a fatal took place just outside the forty mile per limit in 1997 at the 247 milepost.

Then once past Pug's Drive In speeds start to increase again. The signs say 45 and then 50. People drive 50 and 55 or 60.

Between the beginning of Cat Canyon and Sunnyside Junction only one fatal accident occurred in the years in question, a fatal mishap near milepost 255 in 1998. But since 2000, many more have died on this stretch of road, including the three men from California last summer.

Once past Sunnyside Junction the traffic subsides a little or at least it does from the north. Travelers between the East Carbon area and Price are now off the road; but that is not true for those beating it north from I-70 many of whom are taking a "short cut" to avoid driving all the way to Cove Fort on I-70.

This is also where the road get truly interesting in a masochistic kind of way. It rises slowly and then it falls. It is near milepost 264 where in 2000 a fatal accident occurred (and again in the fall of 2001 when a roll over killed a young woman from San Juan County).

The road rises steadily until it reaches the Horse Canyon cutoff and then seemingly in a fast moving car it drops off into the convoluted desert passing from juniper trees into a lad of warped washes and scrubby bushes.

From there to I-70 the convolution isn't just in the desert but in the speeds people drive. More death and mayhem litter the roads history since it gained the name of U.S. 6.


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