These are the drivers we all hate. They take driving courtesy rules and toss them out the open sun-roof.
You know who they are. There's "The Tailgater" and "The Reckless Speeder" and "The No-Blink Merger." And don't forget maroon Golf who won't let black Saab into the left lane even after a three-second signal.Even Utahns who didn't watch Jerry, George, Elaine and Kramer do freeway battle with the obstinate Volkswagen driver in the next-to-last episode of "Seinfeld" can identify with the driving habits of New Yorkers.
Aggressive driving. It's roaring down a street near you.
Just ask Utah Highway Patrol Sgt. Keith Squires, who supervises a crew of troopers patrolling state roads in Salt Lake County.
"The complaints we've been getting on aggressive drivers have been increasing and have done so during the I-15 project," Squires said. "Some of these people just don't give a damn . . . a big part of that is that they haven't been caught."
Road rage caused by lines of traffic can turn violent, Squires said. About six months after interstate reconstruction started, a man driving a pickup truck who was angry at a semitrailer truck driver forced the large rig off the road and pummeled the trucker with his fists and a hammer.
"He didn't have a violent background. He snapped," Squires said. "The potential was there - he could've killed that man. . . . Anybody can have a bad day and take it out on somebody else."
Squires and other safety officials spoke at the Utah Public Health Conference in Provo Thursday about how Utahns have reacted to the four-year major interstate reconstruction project.
Nearly 300 public health workers from government and private health organizations attended the two-day conference at the Provo Park Hotel.
John Dame, of the highway-safety office, said driving habits such as tailgating, driving 10 to 15 miles per hour faster than the flow of traffic and failing to yield or obey signals, cause nearly 60 percent of all automobile accidents on the interstate - an increase from 50 percent in 1990.
Dame said it's difficult to tell by reading statistics if highway reconstruction has greatly contributed to the number of accidents on the road. But the average monthly fatalities from Salt Lake County jumped from 6.44 when road crews hit the pavement to 6.9 from July 1997 to April 1998.
Utah Department of Transportation supervisor John Leonard said he sees a "Western phenomenon" while driving on I-15. In Eastern U.S. cities, he said, drivers will slow down to accommodate the available lanes and number of cars on the road.
"Here, there's an aggressive type of driving because there's a capacity of cars, but they still drive at 55 mph," he said.
Squires said UHP is using video cameras in unmarked cars, vans and a helicopter to nab extremely aggressive drivers. Cars without the official UHP insignia and emergency lights are working well because many drivers have become adept at spotting troopers running radar.
"We usually can wait 10 to 15 minutes and we'll spot an aggressive driver," Squires said. "Maybe it'll make them think before they go out again."