Alive at 55
Dear Editor:After consciously making the decision not to drive over 55 mph this morning because of light snow, movement on the berm ahead caught my attention. My immediate thought was someone’s horses had escaped! I was not surprised when it turned out to be three huge bull elk in full gallop, tongues hanging out and no place to go but over Killer 82. Luckily the northbound lane was nearly empty and I was able to slow the southbound with emergency flashers. What a way to start the day – but maybe better than the finish last Saturday. After leaving a beautiful day on the slopes at Snowmass I counted eight dead deer and one elk between Snowmass and Catherine’s Store. What can you and I do?Lose the cell phone and radar detector lead-foot!!! Drive 55 between dusk and dawn. Three factors come into play when reacting to an animal on the highway: perception time, reaction time and braking. At 70 mph you are traveling 103 feet per second. Experts calculate a second for perception time and a second for reaction time, so add another second if you have a cell phone sticking out of your ear. So you have traveled how far before starting to brake? Three hundred and nine feet, roughly the length of a football field. You are way over-driving your headlights, especially if winter grime has coated your lights and reduced your visibility. At 55 mph and without the cell phone, that space would be reduced to half. A spokesman for the State Patrol says the majority of a Garfield County trooper’s time is now spent on accidents involving wildlife. We all have some blame in this because we all contribute to the loss of habitat by living here and this keeps the animals in a somewhat futile search for a place to rest and conserve energy in the harsh winters. You may not think of yourself as a predator but when you drive over 55 at night that is what you become, and unfortunately for the animals they do not recognize you as one. I might suggest that if you get a perverse adrenaline pump from being thought of as a predator maybe trade in that gas-guzzling SUV, cell phone and radar detector for a humvee, a sat phone and an M-16 – our Marines can use you on the streets of Baghdad. What can the rest of us do? Get a deer whistle (patrolmen have them on all their cars) Wal Mart ($5.77) or go to americanhornet.com (starting at $59.95 but claim a 70 percent less chance of an animal/vehicle collision). House Bill 1043 seeks to double the fine for speeding in wildlife crossing areas. Call your legislators and let them know you support this bill and would support a 10 mph speed decrease sunset to sunrise. Or if you want to have a little fun slowing traffic, go to pbelectronics.com and pick up a used police radar gun. The next time old lead-foot comes by with his radar detector on talking on his cell, flip your toggle switch and watch the light show from the brakes and turn signals. Remember we can keep more of them alive at 55. Frosty MerriottCarbondale
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