Wednesday, April 12, 2000
The danger of Rabbit Ears Pass can't be blamed solely on ice or curves. It's you and me. The danger is drivers who don't follow the rules and don't listen to common sense, drivers who speed or don't pay attention to the road.
I have sped over Rabbit Ears, but after interviewing all the people I did for this week's story, I won't speed -- for a while. How long will the effect of what I've learned about the pass stay with me? A few weeks, maybe months? And then I'll be late for a plane out of Denver International Airport and I'll push the speed limit over the pass.
I don't have a dog or a child to distract me, but maybe my attention will be on trying to get the last radio signal or reading my engine temperature gauge. If I'm driving 50 mph while my mind is on something else, will I have time to pump the brakes to avoid spinning out on an icy curve?
Why do we take those chances with our lives and the lives of others? Is getting home or getting to Denver really that important?
I don't want to have to interview another family that has lost a wife and mother in an accident on the pass. I don't want my husband, parents and sisters to have to talk to reporters and troopers about an accident involving me. For them, I have to keep in mind the photographs and stories of Liz Closter, Rick Walowitz and the other people who have lost their lives on Rabbit Ears Pass.
For myself, I have to keep in mind the truck driver who caused the wreck that killed Nancy McFarland or the local woman whose wreck killed Janis McDaniel. Do I want that pain and guilt in exchange for a faster trip to the Front Range? Do you?
A newspaper article about the dangers on Rabbit Ears Pass might stay with us for a short time, but a sign is a more permanent and timely reminder.
What might refresh my memory, and the memories of others who are at risk of forgetting the dangers of the pass, is a sign that grabs our attention and shocks us into slowing down even when the road appears dry.
Officials with the Department of Transportation tell us that road signs have to follow certain rules, but surely someone can string together the words that get out a strong message that speed kills on Rabbit Ears Pass.
Motorists see a traditional sign indicating curves ahead, and many rationalize their speed with statements such as, "but I have four-wheel drive," or "it's not snowing right now."
Although that sign is recognizable, it loses some effectiveness, especially with people who have driven a mountain pass without problems.
Where is the trade-off for the state? Are a certain number of deaths acceptable in exchange for a sign that conforms to the rules?
Rabbit Ears Pass is deadly, but if everyone slowed down it wouldn't be as treacherous.
Until a sign can be installed to remind us of the dangers, I urge everyone to take it easy the next time you drive over the pass -- for yourself and others.