SPANISH FORK — Motorists on the road for the holiday weekend will see extra Utah state troopers on patrol, checking our speeds, our seatbelts, and our patience.
KSL rode along with troopers patrolling US 6 in Spanish Fork Canyon, as they focused on driving behaviors that are the most dangerous: speeding, and aggressive driving.
“If people are going the speed limit, they can easily negotiate the roadway,” said Utah Highway Patrol trooper Matt Miller, who has patrolled Spanish Fork Canyon for a dozen years and regularly sees motorists breaking the speed limit by 20 mph.
Wednesday, he and more than a half-dozen other troopers focused on slowing down the steady stream of cars.
“And, we always want to send a message that seatbelts are important,” Matt Miller said. “Seatbelts save lives.”
The crew of troopers stopped around 40 cars an hour for several hours, handing out citations and warnings.
Passing motorists saw it all, and had a chance to slow down.
“So that people know we are here, and might be a little more careful and get to where they’re going safely,” said Matt Miller.
Over the years, he said, U.S. Highway 6 was dubbed a dangerous road because there were so many fatal crashes on the curvy, mountainous road. But upgrades have added more passing lanes, giving motorists more opportunities to pass without taking deadly risks.
“I think that safety has come a long way in the canyon,” Matt Miller said. “But it still has that reputation.”
Troopers KSL rode along with said there’s another dangerous driving behavior that’s on their minds right now, and that is the recent rash of wrong-way drivers: six incidents on the Wasatch Front in just two days.
“It’s alarming to see it happening so frequently,” Matt Miller said.
Matt Miller’s wife, Janet Miller, who is also a trooper, stopped a confused wrong-way driver on I-15 in Lehi early Monday morning.
“I actually saw her in the HOV lane,” said Janet Miller. “All of the vehicles were flashing their lights on the other side trying to warn her as she was going over the hills.”
She was the only trooper available to get ahead of the driver and stop her head on.
We always want to send a message that seatbelts are important. Seatbelts save lives.
–Utah Highway Patrol trooper Matt Miller
You can hear Janet Miller nervously talking to herself on the dashcam video, as the approaching headlights of the wrong-way car close in on her patrol car.
“Stop, stop, stop, stop, stop,” Janet Miller can be heard saying.
The driver stopped just before hitting her patrol car.
“Either this lady or the public, somebody was either going to get hurt or killed,” she said. “I couldn’t let that happen.”
In the last couple of years, as the Utah Highway Patrol began to encounter an increasing number of wrong-way drivers. UHP developed a technique to slow traffic, get behind the wrong way driver, and disable the car with a PIT maneuver.
“We’re talking a lot about options,” Janet Miller said.
Now, they’re working to devise additional techniques and working with the Utah Department of Transportation to light up “wrong way” signs at the end of exit ramps.
“There’s also some experimentation being done with sensors on the ramps that recognize a vehicle going the wrong way, and will send an alert,” said Matt Miller.
That would give troopers a heads up so they could try to intercept the motorist quicker.
“We’ve always had impaired drivers,” Matt Miller said. "We’ve always had elderly drivers. But something is causing an uptick in the number of incidents that we're seeing.”
UHP is still searching for solutions on the road that address the safety of troopers and wrong-way drivers.