Have you ever seen an image, smelled an aroma, felt a touch that brought back memories of the past? On average, the Utah Highway Patrol handles fifty percent of all fatal crashes in Utah.
Along the many highways there are sad reminders of those who have lost their lives. I still remember the first fatal crash I rolled up on nineteen years ago as if it was yesterday. A young lady, just recently married, lost control of her vehicle southbound on I-15 at Glover Lane, crossed the open median and hit head-on with a semi. Her life was cut short far too early, leaving behind dreams and ambitions. One of the last fatal crashes I responded to still resonates in my mind on a daily basis. I am just one of four hundred and fifty Troopers who respond to these types of incidents, but we all have the same images and experiences.
The public often asks why we as State Troopers are so passionate about using seatbelts, stopping impaired drivers, eliminating distractions in vehicles or reminding folks to slow down and obey the speed limit. The answer is simple; we see how these factors can forever change lives. We have knocked on doors and told families their loved ones will never come home. Young children will never see Mom/Dad. Mom and Dad will never see their child graduate from college. The younger sister will never play basketball with her older brother again. The struggling mother will never see her husband walk through that door again. All of these scenarios play out on average about two hundred and twenty-five days of each year.
The real tragedy is that many fatal crashes are preventable. There is no reason we should have sixty people die in a year at the hands of an alcohol or drug impaired driver. Fifty percent of all our fatal crash victims do not have a seatbelt on. Distracted driving is an ever-increasing trend, and folks who are far exceeding the speed limit have a difficult time surviving high-speed crashes, especially when not in a seatbelt.
The reason State Troopers are so passionate about the five deadliest factors (speed, seatbelts, distracted driving, DUI, and drowsy driving) is because we care. We go out each day and say, “No one will die on my stretch of roadway.” When they do, we take it very personally. People often don’t realize it, but State Troopers suffer as well. There are many times when tears are shed in patrol cars after leaving the scene of a horrific crash, or in the basement where no one is watching. Next time you see a Trooper doing his or her job on the side of the road, I hope you know they are out there to help save your life and the lives of your loved ones.