Ed Quillen: Maybe those slowpokes aren’t so bad after all | AspenTimes.com

Ed Quillen: Maybe those slowpokes aren’t so bad after all

Every now and again I need to leave town, which generally means crossing a pass, which in turn often means being stuck behind a laden semi ” or a gargantuan recreational vehicle towing an SUV in front of a boat ” crawling along at 15 mph on the uphill side.

This is annoying, and state Rep. Michael Merrifield, a Democrat from Manitou Springs, has proposed legislation that would allow the state patrol to issue a ticket for impeding traffic if more than five vehicles were trailing the slowpoke.

I’ve spent my fair share of time inching up Monarch Pass, but I see some problems with such a law.

For one thing, how can it be enforced? If you’re speeding, and a state trooper is sitting along the road with a radar gun, the trooper can race out, catch up to you, and pull you over. Now suppose the trooper is there when a slowpoke comes by. He’ll need to count the vehicles behind the tortoise to be sure there are at least five, then pull out and pass the trailing vehicles ” and if it were possible to pass safely in that zone, wouldn’t some of the impeded vehicles have already done so? ” until he gets up to where he can pull over the offender.

Our state troopers are a disciplined and dedicated lot, but it’s hard to believe they’ll be eager to take such risks when we’re talking about an annoyance, not a safety threat.

For another, on many highways there aren’t many good places to pull over. For reasons which I will explain later, I know most convenient pullover spots on routes I travel with some frequency, but a Texan creeping along with boat in tow may be on his first visit to the Rockies. Even if he wanted to “drive friendly,” he may not notice the pullover until it’s too late to use it safely.

Thus if this law were passed, we’d need more pullovers, and we’d also need signs to alert drivers that there’s a “Slow Traffic Pullover 1/2-Mile Ahead” or the like. Further, the pullovers, even if they were unpaved, would need maintenance like snow plowing and rockslide removal. That costs money, which is in short supply at the statehouse these days, and it’s estimated that the increased fine revenue would amount to less than $5,000 a year. In other words, this is a fiscal absurdity.

Even so, it isn’t a terrible idea.

There was a time when I would loose mighty oaths toward the turkeys, tourons and flatlanders who impeded my vital excursions along U.S. 40 between Kremmling and Granby. Why on Earth did they need to slow down and gawk, and why use a sluggish motor home instead of spending money at our fine motels and restaurants?

But I’ve mellowed. We live in a place so spectacular that people come from all over the world to admire it. Not only am I more tolerant of their lethargic pace, but I’ve come to be something of a slowpoke myself. When I notice a cavalcade of impatient folks, insensitive to the montane splendor around them, I’m glad to pull over when I come to the right place.

Further, pullovers work well when I’m stuck in one of those processions. Rather than stare at the rear of whatever’s in front of me, I pull off. I get out and stretch. After a few minutes, I have the road to myself.

So if this proposal became law, and thus produced more good pullovers, it might not improve traffic speeds. But it would improve our journeys if we had more places to wait out the caravans. Let’s enjoy what we have, rather than complain that we can’t get through it fast enough.

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