A Sermon Somewhere: Utah Road Fatalities


This is the latest post in an ongoing series where I examine the menial stuff of life to try to find a sermon illustration.  .  .and fail miserably!

Last week I drove the 20 mile stretch of I-15 between my house and downtown Salt Lake City three times.  In that 120 miles of driving, I saw more people and cars than I probably saw in one year living in Eastern Oregon where there are few people and even fewer vehicles.

The roads are 5 lanes wide.  Those 5 lanes are surrounded by every vehicle we have yet invented from massive semis to tiny motorcyclists.  Some cars are going 80.  Others are going 40 for no discernible reason.  Every time you change lanes, there is a car in your blind spot.  Every time you go under an underpass there is a traffic cop hiding there.  I am not entirely sure why as it is impossible to speed in Utah, given that even in the city the speed limit is 75.

And there are signs everywhere.  There are merging lane signs, exit signs, mileage signs, speed limit signs and billboard signs.  Awhile back the highway administration, again for no discernible reason, decided to install a bunch of digital signs right above the lanes with messages they can change whenever.  They must have decided we didn’t have enough to look at.

Granted, some of the time those digital boards tell you how long they estimate it will be to important landmarks or junctions.  Other times they put really passive aggressive seatbelt warnings up like, “Click it or Ticket!” or even (and I am not making this up) “That Seat Belt Looks Really Good on You!”

But last week some guy at the highway administration must have lost a bet because the signs read, “There have been 4 fatalities on Utah roads in the last 7 days.”

I have no idea why I needed to know that.

Were they bragging?  Did we set a new record?  Did we beat Idaho and Wyoming who must have had 5 in 7 or, worse, 7 in 7 days?  Is there a ranking somewhere of state traffic fatalities and we are winning it?  After all Utah wins the other records like happiest state and most prosperous state and most Mormon state.

Or where they warning us?  We have a death every other day and we did not have one yesterday!  Today is day 8, watch out!  It could be you.  Under the likelihood that that was the case, I buckled my seat belt and slowed down to 40 behind a gray haired couple driving a white Buick who were doing the same.

Moreover, where did these accidents happen?  Notice the sign didn’t say Utah interstates.  It said Utah highways, which I think included most roads in the entire state.  If they all happened in southern Utah, then I don’t really care.  But if they all happened on the I-15 corridor, than I definitely am buckling all the seat belts in my car, whether or not they are occupied, and slowing down to 20.

Another possibility is that there is a geographical rotation of some sort?  Maybe the first one happened in northwest Utah (where I drive), the next in southeast Utah, then in southwest, then in northeast.  If that is the case, it is our turn again!

Whatever the situation I decided I am not going to cause or be fatality number 5 on day 8!  So I slowed down to 25 and took the next exit to use the back roads.  Based on the huge line of cars at that exit, I am guessing I am not the only one.

This might mean this was all a manipulative scheme to try to reduce traffic on the interstate.  Whatever their plan, it seems to have worked and I am praying for the families of fatalities 1 through 4 and avoiding the Interstate and all highways so my family won’t be joining them.

Meanwhile, did you know back roads are delightful?  There are houses, stores, schools, hospitals, and pedestrians everywhere.  I might get to where I am going a half hour late, but at least I will have had a bunch of people to wave at and houses to admire.  I also might get lost back there but at least I won’t die and after all, there has to be a sermon on those roads somewhere!!