Chief's Corner

Chief's Corner
Posted on 07/18/2011
Chief R. Russo

Traffic issues are the topic about which I get the most complaints from citizens. Some say we aren’t aggressive enough, and others say they see us everywhere and believe we’re just generating revenue for the city. I understand that people’s perspectives depend upon which corner they’re standing on, but ultimately everyone just wants their family to come home safely every night.

Each traffic fatality attaches itself to my memory when I see the victims’ faces and the needless loss of life. Every Easter, I remember a wonderful man delivering flowers in the company van who was hit and killed by a drunk driver on Wasatch Boulevard.

Removing mangled bodies from vehicle wreckage amid the smell of battery acid vapors, engine oils and the human body on asphalt ingrains itself upon one’s psyche. But there is nothing like the burden of trying to find the right words to tell a wife her husband has died needlessly at the hands of a drunk driver. There are no scripts or magic words of comfort, just an attempt to proffer the facts folded in compassion. Police officers hate that part of their jobs, and those who portray disdain for officers who work to enforce traffic laws will not get an apology for our labors.

The mayor and council have always believed public safety is the city’s highest priority and the latest numbers seem to suggest significant progress. I value our partnerships with other law enforcement agencies, MADD and the Utah Highway Safety Council. Equally as important are the legislators from our city who have always been accessible and instrumental in giving law enforcement agencies the tools we need to make a difference. It’s working!

Traffic deaths in Utah for 2010 were the lowest since 1974. This year we have had nine fewer deaths through the end of May compared to last year. There were 74 deaths through May in 2010 and this year there have been only 65, with none in Cottonwood Heights.  Over the last 40 years, the month of May has averaged 26 deaths a month. Utah saw only 10 deaths in May of 2011.

It’s important to recognize that there are other factors that influence these positive outcomes, such as the Highway Safety Council’s PSA’s, airbags and side impact crash bars in vehicles, and most importantly the cell phone progression of the 9-1-1 and EMS systems. Our paramedics and fire extrication crews are saving lives by simply responding faster and with higher skill levels.

Although traffic deaths in Utah continue to be on the decline, please remember to use your seatbelts for all passengers, especially children. An adult can’t physically restrain a child   because of the physics/force generated in an accident. For instance, an unrestrained 10-pound infant in a 35 mph collision weighs 350 pounds, and a 35 pound unrestrained child in a low-speed school zone accident displaces 700 pounds of force.

I urge all drivers to make smart choices when they get behind the wheel, because while Utah is seeing record lows for traffic-related deaths, there is still room for improvement towards the goal of zero fatalities.