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TAYLORSVILLE — Utah Highway Patrol troopers receive extensive training on how to stop a wrong-way driver.
But because of the dynamics of the ever-changing situation, sometimes a trooper has to improvise to stop a vehicle before someone gets injured. That's what trooper Lane Hooser did on May 17.
About 2:30 a.m. that day, a wrong-way driver was reported on I-15 near the border of Salt Lake and Davis counties.
That driver, Greg Brent Hardin, 58, of Salt Lake City, was charged Friday in 3rd District Court with failing to stop for police, a third-degree felony.
According to charging documents, Hardin's wrong-way driving episode began at the 400 South off-ramp of I-15 in Salt Lake City where he nearly hit a police patrol car. The officer attempted to pull over the vehicle, but it took off, traveling an estimated 96 mph, the charges state. The chase was terminated due to the "extreme danger of the situation."
When emergency dispatchers put out the word to other law enforcement informing them of the wrong-way driver, Hooser, who was in the Centerville area, began driving to the scene. Near 2600 South in Woods Cross, he encountered the SUV traveling north in the southbound lanes.
Typically, troopers wait until the freeway is shut down and residual traffic has cleared before they attempt to approach a vehicle from behind and perform a PIT maneuver by bumping the rear quarter-panel of the wrong-way car to cause it to spin out.
In this case, the UHP said the trooper likely wasn't expecting Hardin to come up on him when he did.
In dashcam video from Hooser's car released Friday, the wrong-way SUV can be seen coming at Hooser in the HOV lane. Hooser positions his car so the SUV sideswipes him as it drives by.
Hooser then does a U-turn in the video so he, too, is now going against traffic. Several other vehicles pass him going the right way. But Hooser then comes across the SUV attempting to make a U-turn. Seeing his opportunity to stop the driver, Hooser immediately rams his car into the rear quarter-panel on the driver's side, stopping the SUV.
"He had an opportunity to stop that vehicle and he did it. And that’s a good decision,” said UHP Sgt. Nick Street.
Hooser was treated for a bloody nose caused by his air bag going off and other minor injuries.
"I've been involved in a 10-50 with that vehicle," Hooser is heard calmly telling dispatchers, using the police code for a crash.
Hardin was also treated at a local hospital.
Even though it was not a traditional PIT maneuver, and the freeway was not completely clear of other passing vehicles, the UHP said Hooser — a rookie trooper — made the right decision.
"In the end, our troopers know they need to get that vehicle stopped or it's going to end horribly," said Col. Michael Rapich, head of the UHP. "We have to stop that vehicle, and we did."
Hardin has a history of fleeing from police and DUI, according to court records.
He was convicted of DUI and failing to stop for law enforcers in 2011. In 2009 he was convicted of an amended charge of attempted failure to stop at the command of an officer and reckless driving. And in 1999 he was convicted of attempted failure to stop at the command of an officer and DUI.
In 2018, six people were killed by wrong-way drivers in Utah.
- Three people were killed in a fiery crash on Aug. 31 in almost the same area when a Ford F-150 pickup truck struck a Hyundai Elantra head-on.
- In November, a 90-year-old Taylorsville man was killed when be drove the wrong way on the Bangerter Highway in West Jordan and caused a multivehicle crash.
- And two teens were killed on the Legacy Highway when the driver lost control of his vehicle, crossed the dirt median and went into oncoming traffic, Street said.
Because the causes of wrong-way crashes range from intoxication to being disoriented to reckless driving, Street said there isn't just one solution that will fix the problem of wrong-way driving. He said the UHP works closely with the Utah Department of Transportation to use technology to help reduce the cases of wrong-way driving.
Street said there are proposals to install flashing lights or signs for people who use off-ramps to get onto the freeway. The problem with some of those proposals, however, is they are costly, he said.