Until improvements are actually made to State Route 64 between Williams and Grand Canyon, I expect this will become an annual writing event for me.
With the tourism season in full swing, I urge all local drivers, and any tourists who may be reading this, to drive carefully. The harrowing experiences on this highway just never seem to cease.
The Arizona Department of Transportation may not agree. There are those, including high-ranking officials who drive the road themselves, who say improvements are not a priority because the fatality rate on the highway is not high enough.
If that’s the case, it’s really a shame that people have to die before the state will take action.
This past Saturday, two people were killed on SR64 when a van carrying Chaminade (N.Y.) High School students left the road about 14 miles south of Valle (see brief on page 2B).
In defense of ADOT, they did hold a couple of public meetings on the highway last year, but they were poorly attended. An aerial survey has been ongoing last month and this month so plans can be made about where to put in passing lanes.
The passing lanes will help. But they probably won’t become a reality until a few years down the road.
In 16 months as editor of this newspaper, I’ve had a handful of driving experiences that left me with sweaty armpits and a fast-beating heart. Most usually, they involve drivers coming at me from the opposite direction.
You know, I’m talking about those people who make a pass misjudging the mass of steel hurtling at them at 65 mph in the opposite direction.
But the situation that makes me most nervous comes at night. About three weeks ago, I drove home from Williams at about 11 p.m. I counted 10 deer and elk that I spotted alongside the road, most in the stretch of forest south of Tusayan.
A few of them were actually on the road and I drove very carefully those last few miles with the brights on and eyes scanning the roadside.
What makes me most nervous is when people choose to tailgate you while you are driving through this stretch. I can envision a deer running out in front of me and while I’m trying to avoid it, the moron behind me hits me anyway.
Maybe I’m just getting paranoid. Please, buckle up, drive the speed limit and pay attention.
(Brad Fuqua is editor of the Grand Canyon News).