Speed limit? Utahns don’t need no stinking speed limit

Sep 22 2013 - 10:04am

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As of last week, there are 289 additional miles of Utah freeways with an 80-mph speed limit. This is a relief, because the new limit nearly matches my wife's actual driving speed.

More on that later.

As for my driving, the 80-mph speed limit changes nothing. My family regularly mocks me for my habitual adherence to posted speed limits.

Because I obey the law, I have been accused of driving like I'm "from Idaho." But I defend native Spud Staters against these false charges. As we all know, those who learned to drive in Idaho are not best known for driving slowly. If they are famous for anything, it's for leaving on their turn signals while motoring in the fast lane.

I admit to spending most of my time in the lanes reserved for slower-moving vehicles. I would chalk it up to wisdom gained from many years of experience behind the wheel, but I'm afraid the word "wisdom," when applied to me, is at best a delightful fiction.

Mostly it comes down to this: During my youth, I drove so stupidly, so fast and so recklessly for so many years, I count myself and all those with whom I shared the road lucky to be alive.

Even when I wasn't behind the wheel, I did not advocate for safety and sanity. Indeed, I was reminded just recently of one such foolish pedal-to-the-metal experience:

It was winter 1978 -- basketball season. My college roommate, Clark, and I, contrary to logic and despite being enrolled at Utah State University, bought season tickets to the University of Utah's Runnin' Utes.

One Saturday, the Utes played an afternoon game in Salt Lake City, and the Aggies played that evening in Logan. We watched the Utes' game to its conclusion, then jumped into Clark's yellow Chevy Nova for the trip to Logan. We had just over an hour and a half until tip-off at USU. It was, being winter, dark by the time we turned off U.S. 89 onto Interstate 84 at the mouth of Weber Canyon.

As we hurtled along at nearly 100 mph through Riverdale, both silent, our eyes focused on the road ahead -- and I swear this to be true -- a pair of rabbits, side-by-side, darted onto the road only to be flattened by the Nova's right-front tire. Clark didn't flinch.

"Rabbits?" he asked.

"Yup," came my reply.

Well, we made it to Logan in one piece. We saw the opening tip-off as we walked down The Spectrum's stairs to our seats.

But enough history. What about now? Increasing the speed limit to 80 will lessen the odds that My Better Half will be ticketed as she drives along I-15 between Santaquin and Leeds.

"Lessen the odds"? you ask. "Why, Don, that would suggest that your spouse might exceed 80 mph while driving through Southern Utah."

If you're receiving that message, dear readers, I'm coming through loud and clear. If the limit is 80 mph, she'll do 83, 84 - maybe 85. It worries me, I'll admit, but after 34 years of marriage, we have a truce on the topic.

Regarding her speeding, I have drifted toward fatalism. I sit in the passenger seat, slightly reclined, eyes shut and trying to sleep. Should she be stopped by a highway patrolman, I have deniability vis-a-vis her law-breaking behavior. That, or I'll be like the insect in the old joke: What's the last thing that passes through a bug's mind as it strikes the windshield? Its bum.

Email Don Porter at dportercolumn@hotmail.com.

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