Last week we had a brief and very local gully washer, the kind of storm that happens comparatively infrequently here in the high desert, where a given area gets an inch or two of rain in less than an hour, and it remains hot and dry everywhere except in a few square miles. During the storm, a white Ford sedan hydroplaned on the interstate and crashed into a guard rail. A Utah state highway patrolman investigated to see if anyone was hurt. Just as he approached the vehicle a late model BMW hydroplaned into the Ford which was pushed over the trooper. The trooper had to have heavy equipment and “jaws-of-life” to extricate him from the wreckage. He was life-flighted out and spent several days in intensive care. He remains, at the time I write, in serious condition, but is expected to recover, but not for months, possibly a year. Those in the vehicles suffered far less serious injuries.

The speed limit on that section of the interstate is 80 mph. What any licensed driver should know is that speed limits are set as the maximum under good conditions, not in a driving rain. Not only that, but exactly why was the driver of the BMW still driving too fast for road conditions, especially considering that it was pouring rain and a highway patrol vehicle had flashing lights on and there were stopped cars at the side of the road? And if the driver was going too fast to see all that in time… what else does that say?

That at least two drivers were idiots, and almost killed a highway patrolman, and possibly crippled him for life… because they were either too self-centered, too thoughtless, or too stupid to pay attention to the road conditions. And they not only injured him, but risked their own lives as well.

This isn’t a sometime occurrence. Virtually every time there is a rainstorm, or a snowstorm, there are accidents, often fatal ones, on I-15, because people are driving too fast for the road conditions. If these individuals only injured or killed themselves, that might be one thing, but even when no one else is injured, their deaths have impacts on spouses, children, parents, or… highway patrol officers.

Sometimes, accidents do happen, despite the driver’s best efforts, but most times, they wouldn’t happen if we didn’t do something stupid. But then, isn’t every day a challenge not to do something stupid?

12 thoughts on “Idiots”

  1. Robert The Addled says:

    All we can hope for is for is for our daily doses of stupid things to be insignificant events rather than life/world changing ones.

  2. Jim S says:

    The stupidity and self-centered justifications of people isn’t news to any cop, unfortunately. What’s really scary to me about those 80 mph limits is that I can guarantee that plenty of people exceed them… and that the two in this incident probably felt that they had slowed down for the conditions… I hope the trooper’s recovery is smooth and complete.

    1. Steve says:

      In general I have found that most people drive 75-85mph between Salt Lake and St. George whether the speed limit is 70mph or 80mph. The law has seemed to catch up with the new technology of the cars and the speed so many were already going. The change from 70mph to 80mph seems to help traffic move more uniformly.

      Mr. Modesitt’s observation to slow down to an appropriate speed with storms, ice, deer, construction, darkness or other hazard is important at any speed limit. Perhaps requiring more training for licensing or recurrent training every five or ten years would help.

  3. John Prigent says:

    It doesn’t have to be in rain. We had a collision near here, two motorcyclists killed when they hit a car. The inquest heard that they were doing over 70 mph in a 40 limit so the car driver had only two second to try to avoid them.

  4. D Archerd says:

    And in another example of idiocy, connected only to the above story by it having occurred on Interstate 15, apparently the firefighters struggling against the wildfire a couple of days ago on El Cajon Pass east of San Bernardino, CA where 20 vehicles were burned were delayed by 20 minutes in getting water-carrying helicopters on scene because there were 4 different hobbyist drones flying overhead capturing video. I suspect this is not the last such story we’ll read where private drones interfere with emergency rescue, fire and police work.

  5. Alison says:

    We tend to breed a different type of idiot on our two lane mountain roads. Drivers get fed up with the car in front of them, so they pass in no passing zones, around blind curves, and into head on collisions with traffic coming the other direction. All too often the idiots take out the other vehicle with them. I think it is just ego — drivers who assume everyone else will always get out of their way.

  6. Wine Guy says:

    I work in an Emergency Department. Rarely to I get to see the perpetrators of such incidents…. but all to often, the aftermath is my ‘challenging case’ for the evening or weekend. Ego is a problem. So is alcohol. “2 beers” is the answer whenever someone says how much they’ve been drinking.

    I have a standard line for patients who come in after doing something less-than-wise: “I have plenty of job security: I don’t need more.”

  7. Robert Zeh says:

    I wouldn’t be so harsh on the drivers.

    One of the things I’ve noticed over my career is that people don’t do well at infrequent randomly scheduled tasks.

    If it happens every day, you can get good at it without much effort. If it happens at the start of every month, with considerable effort you can get good at it. If it happens on a random day once a month, it is hopeless.

  8. Joe says:

    What Robert said.

    And, poor road design. Water does not have to puddle on roads if they are designed appropriately. It rains daily in some countries, and this doesn’t happen.

  9. B. Durbin says:

    Mmm… addressing the above. Road design changes for the climate, because the stressors are different, but one thing remains constant, and that is that if rain is infrequent, hydroplaning is far more likely because oil seeps into the roadway during dry times and rises to the surface when it rains. So we’re not just talking several inches of water (and when “gullywasher” is mentioned, that’s what he means—it’s like a power wash of your car and the rain is that deep, that fast), we’re talking several inches of water/oil slick. “First rain” is always dangerous in my home state of California (less than one inch of rain between May and October inclusive.)

    And as for being good at randomly scheduled tasks, well, that’s the point of SLOW DOWN. There was a point when I lived in Denver, and a missed call by the weather reporters (of a mere forty miles) meant that a whole lot of people were taken by surprise by an ice storm in the middle of the work day. I had to drive in that. I had to drive away from home in that in order to pick up my husband, and I had to do it without snow tires or chains.

    Oddly enough, I may have been the best driver I saw on the road, for the simple fact that I KNEW I had no real traction, and did not drive as though I did. It took me more than an hour to get ten miles, mainly because I took a back road that wasn’t congested by other people discovering how to drive on ice. But I didn’t hit anyone or anything, and only had one small slide, no spins.

    And then, speaking of idiocy, we decided to go to a gathering of friends that had been planned for that night. And we weren’t the only ones that showed up. 😀

    1. Joe says:

      Did not know about the oil phenomenon. Thanks!

  10. Tom says:

    Something that helps remind me about driving. A driving tutor said that he never talks about driving ‘accidents’ only what causes car ‘crashes’.

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