Kate Neeley, contributing writer

Imagine driving down Main Street in Logan and noticing people texting in their cars, driving in the median, snarfing a burrito during a left turn, and choosing their own adventure based on personal speed preference. Sound a little crazy? Maybe that’s an exaggerated picture of what’s happening, but according to Chief Gary Jensen of Logan City Police, “Main Street is one of the worst in the state as it relates to crashing,” mostly due to distracted driving.

Logan Main Street is certainly not the road less traveled in Cache Valley, since it also doubles as Highway 89. That could account for some of the high numbers of accidents, but it still might be a good time to take an honest look at your driving. Has there been a time recently when you knew a text message just came in and you just HAD to check it? “Distracted driving is one of the major issues we run into… anything that’s a distraction can be problematic,” Chief Jensen said.

What about that time when you were in a rush and didn’t want to wait FOREVER to make a left turn, so you pulled out into the median and watched for an opening to get over? Did you know that simple and common maneuver is actually illegal? Now before you get completely annoyed and think Hermione Granger must’ve written this article, remember that these rules are put in place to protect you, your 8-month-old baby boy in the back seat, your 17-year-old and his friends out on Friday night, your grandma, and your best friend.

“I know I might sound like your parent,” Chief Jensen said, “but think about it: Why does your mom remind you about safety anyway?” Cops really can be a little like moms — and this is a good thing. Traffic laws are there to keep you safe.

Law enforcement isn’t just a fun pastime, and Chief Jensen makes it clear that his officers are more commonly sent out to focus on keeping you safe than to ruin your day. Rather than have an officer park down a dead-end street and watch for speeders, Chief Jensen prefers that they are actively working to keep the community safe.

It’s also a good idea to brush up on your part as a driver. The following are some of the things that traffic cops encounter on a daily basis:

Take the maneuver mentioned earlier, for instance: Pulling into the median to make a left turn might seem like a harmless idea, something like merging onto the freeway, but it’s illegal. Here’s why: “Head-on collisions happen because of this,” Chief Jensen said. When there’s clearly an arrow in the median to give you a chance to turn off the main drag into a parking lot, and suddenly there’s an oncoming car in your
face, it can certainly cause an issue.

Another common mishap is what Chief Jensen and his colleagues call “courtesy crashes.” You know those times when multiple lanes are congested and there are people waiting in parking lots to join traffic or make a turn, so you try and be a good Samaritan and let them in? This act of seemingly thoughtful behavior can lead to major confusion on the part of other drivers who are unaware and will continue with the flow of traffic, which can cause serious accidents. Next time you find yourself in this situation, remember that a few minutes of extra patience on the part of the person waiting is better for them than multiple people injured and broken cars. Remember that not letting them in might just be the more courteous thing to do, even though it seems counter to your good nature.

Pedestrians and drivers working together is important to protect both. Crosswalks are important to use, but also keep in mind that based on the law, a driver must yield to a person on foot at all times. Now, if you’re the person on foot, don’t expect that every driver is going to follow the letter of the law — if one of you is going to pay a higher price for getting in the other’s way, it will be the pedestrian, according to the Chief.

All in all, think of how often you are on the road and at the wheel. For most, chances are it’s every day, multiple times a day. Why not brush up on your safety and add in a little more patience, self-control, and wisdom to keep everyone safe? Like the anthem “America the Beautiful” says, when it comes down to why rules are in place, it truly is “liberty in law.” Let the wheels in your mind turn on that phrase and stay safe out there, Cache Valley!