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Driving critic: Utah drivers are really that bad

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SALT LAKE CITY — Welcome to Utah, where signs point to a growing notion that Utah drivers are erratic and rude. But are we really that bad, or just different?

KSL News asked online driving critic Chris Longhurst.

"In fact," he continued, "to describe the gentle down the middle of the road as driving is almost a misuse of the word."

According to Longhurst, the driving test in his native England is more intense, with the notion that getting behind the wheel is serious business.

"For a European doing the Utah driving test, it was kind of strange because it was an open-book test where they gave you multiple choice, but you had the book with the answers in it," Longhurst said. "That was weird because I don't understand how you could get answers wrong if you have the answers provided to you."

The 10-year veteran of Utah roads argues that poor driver education and a young population are at the root of the state's inferior driving methods.

"People around here have a lot of kids, so there's a lot younger drivers on the road, or a lot more younger drivers on the road than you might find in other states," Longhurst said. "I'm sure that has something to do with it as well, is there might just be a lot more inexperienced drivers."

At the Salt Lake City Traffic School, folks take a class to ease the penalty for a ticket. Retired Salt Lake City police officer Don McNair teaches the class, and he knows a lot about Utah drivers.

"I think after people drive for a while, they pick up bad habits. (They're) shaving, playing with the radio," McNair said. "I had a lady come in one night, she told me her girlfriend was putting on her makeup and she got out eyelash curler. About that time, the car in front of her stopped suddenly. She yanked the tool away to grab the steering wheel, and she forgot to release it. So there's one eye that has no eyelashes."

There are differing opinions on what Utahns' worst driving offenses are, and McNair says his biggest pet peeve is drivers running a red light. "I think it's the most dangerous thing people can do," he said.

But students in his class have different complaints.

"The biggest complaint we have in traffic school is people driving too slow in the passing lane," McNair said.

Longhurst logged his driving complaint in the form of a tip for drivers new to Utah roads: "Traffic lights aren't so much to control the traffic as they are a suggestion of what might be an appropriate action for the driver," he said. "Green means go, but not too fast. A nice, gentle, slow, ambling start is what's called for here. Orange means keep going. And red means you might want to stop — note that it's definitely an option."


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Keith McCord


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