LETTER TO THE EDITOR – I was the driver of the Honda Insight in the car accident on April 7th 2013 on the corner of 200 North and 300 West in St. George. My husband was in the passenger seat and two of my children were in the back. From my point of view the accident was very unexpected. We were heading towards St. George Blvd and were hit first on the left next to my door and then about a second later on the front right side of the car. There were airbags everywhere and I saw little of the accident. It was a terrifying experience and caused a lot of pain for many in the accident. When I finally slowly got out of the car and turned around to look at the wreckage I saw that our car was crushed and a red truck was flipped over and partially on top of the car. My first thought was if anyone was dead. I soon found out that the man standing on the corner had been the driver and that he was okay.
Miracle after miracle took place during that accident. Anyone who saw the wreckage would have assumed that several people would have been in the hospital or maybe even killed. To be sure several of us are in a lot of pain and two cars seem to be totaled, yet I consider the outcome a miracle. I am above all relieved and grateful that everyone was okay. I was ticketed for not stopping at a stop sign. Of course I was at fault. Yet anyone with even the smallest amount of training in city planning or transportation engineering is aware that a stop sign that is clear of tree branches is not the only thing required to create a safe street.
I am concerned for the safety of others driving on that street and other streets within St. George. Many of the streets around the area where the accident occurred are dangerous, where accidents are just waiting to happen. I not only say this as an individual who has been trained in city planning but as a person who had almost 20 years of safe and responsible driving history. When my husband called his sister explaining that we had been in a car wreck she new exactly what happened and where because she had moved into the neighborhood two weeks earlier and had to remind herself every single time she passed that street to stop. It always startled her that there was a stop there and she had nearly missed it on several occasions.
A comment I read on line about the accident confirmed my suspicion that many people had not stopped at that street and had been fortunate, due to the lower traffic levels at the time, not to get hit. The particular street where the accident took place was in an older neighborhood of town on a very wide street. This type of width in Salt Lake City would be a major road with a light at the intersection. In St George this was a residential street and an intersection light would not be feasible. When streets are this wide it doesn’t take much for a driver not to see a stop sign 20 or so feet over on the right hand side. Placing a stop sign high up in the air may make it visible over parked cars on the side of the road or for those driving trucks, but makes it harder to see when in a lower car close to an intersection. In this particular case I had been on that road once before with my husband driving. I had just turned onto the street a block before the accident and was focusing on what was strait ahead of me, the light that had just turned green a block ahead leading on to St. George Blvd. This was a perfectly reasonable thing to do considering that there were no other stop signs anywhere else along the street, and there were no lines on the road indicating a stop was coming up. The traffic at the intersection was low enough that I hadn’t seen how cars were using the intersection either. Anyone who had never been on the street before would have assumed that this was a main through street that went strait on to St. George Blvd without a stop.
Carefully designed streets indicate changes in driving patterns in more than one way. Those who may have lived on the street for many years are aware of the stop sign and that the pattern of stop signs change on that street. But consider those who visit (which was our case), those getting older and losing their memory on which streets they are to stop at, or young teenagers who are distracted and getting used to driving or unfamiliar with the place. A safe street provides many visual clues so that “everyone” can pick up on how to drive safely. A simple white line painted across the lane as well as words such as “two-way stop ahead” costs the city almost nothing yet can save lives. After the accident my husband noticed that the road had been repaved and that there most likely were lines painted across the street at some time. Whether it was repaved four weeks or four months ago the fact was that the lines indicating a stop had not been repainted. And as I looked at other intersections in the area I noticed that many of them did not have painted lines across the lanes where stop signs were either. These kinds of details that the city has been neglecting can save lives. I urge those who live in St. George to pay attention to this issue, to hold the city accountable for making sure the streets are safe for everyone. It would be a pity for anyone else to have to experience this sort of thing or even a death of a loved one when it is so easily avoided. Of course paying attention while driving is important. But driving is demanding, and those who design and maintain roads are responsible for providing simple and inexpensive ways to make them safe for everyone.
Submitted by: Grace Bjarnson
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