Anita Stansfield: Speed limits, hazards on the freeway of life

By Anita Stansfield

For the Deseret News

Published: Sunday, March 18 2012 5:00 a.m. MDT

Thick traffic clogs the north and southbound lanes of I-15 in the construction zone in Lindon in April 2006.

Jason Olson, Deseret News archive

Enlarge photo»

Most of the time I have the privilege of working at home, but sometimes I have to drive into the city for interviews, meetings or other events that get me out of this little world where I and my computer hang out together. I consider myself a careful driver, and I’m generally very relaxed when I drive. But I often find my thoughts wandering as I observe what’s going on around me while I cruise up and down I-15.

For anyone reading this who might not have already known, I must admit that I’m a Mormon. And I try to be a good one. Like most Mormons, I’m oozing with flaws and imperfections and just trying to get my visiting teaching done by the end of the month, but I take my religion as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints very seriously. Living in a predominantly LDS community, I have to assume that the majority of people I encounter on the freeway have read the same Book of Mormon I’ve read, and probably the same Articles of Faith.

I always taught my children when they were fledgling drivers that if they wanted God to protect them while they were out on the road, they needed to keep the laws that have been put in place for a reason. If you’re speeding and being careless, can you also be praying that you’ll remain safe?

So, let me get this straight. We believe in obeying the laws of the land. Right? Then why do I feel like I’m often the only person out there trying to drive somewhere near the speed limit? With my cruise control set two or three miles over the posted speed, I try to get myself settled in a center lane where I won’t get in anybody’s way. And other cars just move past me over and over. I never drive anywhere without someone getting right behind me, making it clear that they feel great impatience over my impeding their desire to get somewhere in a hurry.

Where’s everybody going that’s so important? That’s what I want to know. I wonder how many of these vehicles are carrying women in labor or a bleeding child who urgently needs stitches. Either that, or those lunch dates and appointments must be awfully important — so much so that leaving home a few minutes earlier couldn’t possibly have been managed.

The thing that really gets to me are when the speed limit is posted in flashing lights with signs that proclaim fines will be double for speeding in construction zones. Do you think it’s possible that those signs are meant to be a warning and a protection more than an inconvenience that keeps you from making up the time you lost by lingering too long over your Cheerios that morning? Where have I heard that concept? General conference, perhaps.

Under construction

It seems like no matter which direction I go in order to get anywhere that matters, there’s always at least one section of road under construction. Something gets finished, and they start tearing up something else. Or sometimes they really offer drivers an adventure by having the detour route under construction so that you can do a detour within a detour. The bumpy roads, narrowed lanes and flagmen that make us stop and wait for traffic to flow the other direction can be annoying, especially when it’s a route you have to take regularly. But the reality is that we are always under construction.

Roads need improvement procedures to accommodate growing traffic flow, or to keep them smooth and free from the assaults of weather and wear and tear. People don’t improve if they don’t regularly assess the damages of life’s challenges and the normal wear and tear of just getting from week to week. I see road construction like going to the dentist. While it’s happening, it’s generally very unpleasant, but once it’s done, you’re very glad the problem has been fixed.

Car-pool lanes

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