Maybe it's because so many roads have construction delays. Or it could be the heat or just all the endless talk of road construction. In any case, Utah drivers seem to be becoming more aggressive, impatient and dangerous, authorities say.
"I get honked at and yelled at all the time - for just going the speed limit," Salt Lake County sheriff's deputy Peggy Faulkner said. "My car doesn't have lights on top, so not everyone knows I'm a deputy. I have to flash my lights in the back window, and then people back off."A road rage incident Wednesday apparently resulted in a stabbing and a near shooting when two men got into a fight near 13400 South and Redwood Road about 6:30 p.m.
"One guy was punching into the other guy's car," said Kerstin Kingery, who stopped when she noticed the brawl. "Then he pulled him out and started choking, punching and kicking him. I couldn't believe it when I saw the gun. I got scared, and I drove to the police station down the street."
A driver in a small car heading north was passing other cars on Redwood Road in the southbound lane. The maneuver ticked off a man driving a pickup truck, and he apparently swerved in front of him, Faulkner said.
The two got mad and pulled over. The driver of the truck, identified by a family member as Kelly Edwards, 35, jumped out and walked up to the car. Faulkner said the driver of the car, Patrick Haglund, 37, greeted him with a hand-gun.
Edwards went for the gun and it discharged a bullet into the dash board of the car during the struggle, Faulkner said. Edwards got it away and hit Haglund in the head with the metal part of the gun, she said. Haglund then pulled out a knife and stabbed Edwards in the hand - and a big fight ensued.
Faulkner said that as the men were fighting, Edwards' father, who was following him in another truck, came up and took the gun and knife away.
Another witness, Troy Rich, saw one of the men pounding the other's head into the hard pavement during the fight, which lasted several seconds. Rich intervened and broke up the fight. He held the men down until deputies arrived.
"One was trying to leave, but I told him to wait until the police got here," Rich said.
Both men were taken to Jordan Valley Hospital's emergency room where they were treated and released, a hospital spokeswoman said.
Investigators didn't make any arrests Wednesday because they hadn't sorted out all the details of the incident.
Faulkner offered some tips on how to avoid becoming a victim of road rage. Of course, people need to try to obey speed limits and relax while driving, but she offered some more realistic tips:
- Avoid making eye contact with other drivers.
- If somebody starts yelling or motioning, ignore them.
- If a driver keeps following, pull in to a police or fire station to get help. Don't ever stop.
The problem of motorists taking their frustration out on each other prompted the Utah Safety Council to launch the "Drive Friendly" campaign earlier this year. The campaign received support from the Salt Lake County Council of Governments, with authorities urging motorists to ease up on the pedal, not take everything personally and relax. Cities that are participating in the program have police officers distributing "Drive Friendly" stickers and pamphlets encouraging courtesy on the road.
That courtesy, officials say, can help save lives if only motorists would heed the advice. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates behavior associated with aggressive driving plays a role in about one-third of all automobile accidents.