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Matthew Jelalian: Who else can’t see their lane when it rains?

December 2, 2018

Matthew Jelalian poses for a portrait in the Daily Herald studio on Friday, March 6, 2015. SAMMY JO HESTER, Daily Herald

Every Saturday morning, I get up at 4 a.m. to go and work in Salt Lake City.

I stumble out of bed, grab the clothes from my banister and walk out to my car. I always stop by the Maverik on Center Street before hopping onto the freeway. Maverik is where I get a couple of energy drinks so I can survive for the rest of the day.

I’ve been doing this every week since 2016 and have only stopped for the occasional vacation, funeral or brief stint in the hospital. After a while, getting up that early stops being hard. The drive up is actually kind of nice. I usually listen to an audiobook and enjoy the calm, empty roads. In fact, right now I’m listening to an audiobook about President Theodore Roosevelt.

The only thing that ruins this early morning drive is bad weather. It doesn’t take a lot of rain or snow for the lines on the road to all but disappear. And even though the traffic isn’t very heavy in the morning, without the lines on the road, three cars on the freeway can feel like driving in Los Angeles for the first time.

Every time it rains, I’m reminded of Lloyd Bridges’ character from “Airplane.” “Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit sniffing glue.”

The drives home are always worse because there are a lot more cars on the road and the light doesn’t add much by way of visibility. So I’m forced to concentrate on following the car in front of me, praying to God that the drivers on my sides are trying to stay in their lane just as hard as I am.

Just recently, I saw a car slide into the lane next to them and smack side panels with a neighboring car. Luckily, everyone was able to keep control of their vehicles and the two cars pulled over to the side to exchange insurance cards. But since my car crash two years ago, scenarios like that have become my biggest fear.

I have a wife and son, with another on the way. The last thing I want to do is eat the concrete median again because someone didn’t stay in their lane.

We’re all responsible for staying in our lanes, but it’s hard to fulfill that responsibility when the lines that differentiate between two lanes disappear at the first sign of rain or snow. At this point, it’s like guessing why someone is mad at you. The more you try to figure it out, the more likely you are going to make it worse.

Recently, someone brought this subject up on the community Facebook page, Provo Forward. I didn’t need to be reminded of it since the roads have been wet for the past week or so, but it was nice to see that I’m not the only one who worries about it. My fear that I’m a terrible driver seems to be unfounded. According to the post, nobody can see the lanes when it’s raining.

In some ways, that makes me feel good, because I now know I’m not the only one, but it also makes me feel nervous for the same reason. Now I know that the person next to me has just as hard of a time staying in their lane as I do. That’s just begging for trouble.

I’ve heard that the reason why we don’t have reflectors on the road, as they do in parts of California, is because our snow plows would rip them off of the road. I don’t know if that’s true, but it makes sense. But there’s got to be something else we can do, right? Could we at least paint the roads with some sort of reflective paint?

Someone on the post said they spoke with a UDOT employee when they moved here about reflective paint, and the employee said we don’t use anything like that here because it’s bad for the environment.

Now I’m all for conservation, but isn’t broken glass and a tank leaking gasoline probably worse for the environment than lines on a paved street?

Hopefully one day, things like self-driving cars and public transportation will eliminate most or all auto accidents on the road. But until that day comes, we need to do something to make the lanes more visible.

That’s just as true on University Parkway as it is on the freeway. Road conditions in Utah are like tweets from the president. You only get one of two options, pleasant or apocalyptic.

I like my morning drives up to Salt Lake City, but I also hate them when the roads are anything less than perfect because it’s so hard to see the lanes.

Hopefully, UDOT or somebody else can come up with a solution to our poor visibility problem. I almost died once on the road already, and I’d rather not do that again.

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