I had fooled myself. Ever since the Utah Highway Patrol began increased enforcement in Spanish Fork-Price Canyon last year and the Utah Department of Transporation had added new signage and more passing lanes, I was convinced things were getting better in the drive to Utah County. Add to that the fact that not nearly as many people have been killed in the canyon over the past year as had been previously, and I had become complacent.
Friday afternoon, however, I was shaken out of my imaginary world where people stayed at the 60 MPH speed limit, were careful about how they passed, had courtesy for other people and were concerned about everyones saftey.
That afternoon I went to Utah County on some business and was heading back between 4 and 5 p.m. The traffic traveling between Spanish Fork and Price was heavy, particularly in an easterly direction. Just before I got to Scofield Junction, I noticed a white Toyota passing cars behind me very quickly and in some cases dangerously. As I approached Colton the car came up behind me and pulled into the other lane of traffic to pass me. Not more than 300 yards away a tractor trailer rig was headed westbound. At first I thought the driver of the Toyota would pull back in when she saw the oncoming truck, but she accelerated and came even with me and I could see that she was going to head on the semi if I didn't move over. I hit my brakes and went over to the side of the road and onto the soft shoulder almost running down a snow pole in the process. As she passed she waved at me and I caught a glimpse of her Utah plates as she cruised down the road with a long line of traffic behind her.
I sat there for a couple of minutes, not only to let the traffic pass, but to remove my heart from my throat. I had been in close calls in the canyon before, but never one this close or this blatant. She obviously expected me to move over so she could get by.
I got back on the road and about the time I reached Emma Park Road two more cars came up behind me (with Colorado and Idaho plates) and did nearly the same thing on a double yellow line. This time I saw it coming and pulled off the road in a more prepared manner. After that I thought about getting out and walking, but that would have probably been more dangerous than driving considering the nuts that were in the canyon that afternoon.
After I exited the canyon and turned onto Carbonville Road a car that had pulled onto Highway 6 and turned at Blue Cut with me flashed his lights at me, signaling for me to pull over. I pulled over and he got out and so did I. He introduced himself as a local resident and said he saw the whole thing (near Colton) and had gotten the womans license number. He also said it was a Salt Lake plate. He told me if I wanted to file a complaint he would be a witness. He said he had seen her do something similar to other cars as he followed her and told me her car reached speeds of 80 MPH as he chased her to get the plate number.
I thanked him and drove home, finally feeling a little better. This wasn't my idea of a fun Friday night. I called dispatch and they had an officer call me, but I was basically told unless they could catch the person in the car, driving it within a small time frame after the incident, there wasn't much they could do.
And of course by pulling over and gathering my emotions together I had given her plenty of time to fly down the road on her way. At the speed she was going she may have been in Kansas by that time.
My point is that this problem of bad, risky, and let's face it, stupid drivers in the canyon is not going to change no matter how much work UDOT puts into the roads. Certainly as they move toward completion of a four lane format they project in the future, it will solve some problems, but how do you cure discourteous and dangerous people?
If the answer is law enforcement, they, also, can only do so much.
I have often made mistakes on the road. I have turned in front of someone, or made a bad pass. Everyone does that sometime for one reason or another. But these consistently bad drivers who are always on the edge, ready to take that risky pass or constantly speeding well beyond the legal limit, they are the ones that need to be taken off the road.
What can the common citizen do? I learned on Friday that if it happens again I need to report it as soon as possible, regardless whether I have the license number or not. The police need to catch them in the act. Knowing where the vehicle lives or who lives with it does no good.
Often I sit with my camera by my side ready to click off a shot when people do stupid things on the road. I wished I'd had it this time, just so the image could remind me that, regardless of what improvements are physically made to that road, bad drivers will still patrol Price Canyon, ready to spoil my day.