On Sunday, the 25th of July 2021, powerful winds that blew across the US state of Utah resulted in a Sandstorm that claimed the lives of 8 people. The sandstorm created poor visibility on interstate 15 in Millard County, which caused an accident that involved 22 vehicles, including 18 wheelers.
Utah’s department of public safety also reported that among the dead are four children under the age of 15. At the same time, ten other motorists sustained injuries, including three people that sustained critical injuries, were transported to the nearest hospitals. Utah Gov. Spencer J. Cox, on Twitter, said, “We’re stunned and saddened by the horrific accidents in Millard County. We fervently pray for the loved ones of those who perished and for those fighting for their lives.”
Eighth person dies after multi-vehicle crash on I-15 in Utah
While the Governor’s short and to-the-point tweet lacked emotions, those who replied to his tweet wondered why Utah’s highway patrol did not close down the freeway as soon as the sandstorm started while others seemed to acknowledge that sandstorms come without warning and wreak havoc.
Besides the Twitter back and forth comments, policymakers are aware that Utah is undergoing its worst drought in decades, and not only that, even before the sandstorm, Utah had a problem with rising road fatalities caused by drunk drivers.
From the 22nd of May, 2020 to the 7th of September of the same year which was dubbed as the 100 deadliest days of summer, Utah recorded 102 fatalities. That is 102 deaths in 109 days which officials said was avoidable. So why wasn’t anything done to avoid that, considering last Sunday’s fatalities coincided in the same time frame?
While authorities can do much to put safety measures in place, including aggressive policing for those who are reckless while driving on the road, Utah’s drought problem, which likely contributed to the sandstorms that caused the wreckage has the hallmarks of a broader issue faced by the entire country, namely climate change.
Last year, the Salt Lake Tribune reported how Utah was on the verge of becoming a pioneer in terms of recognizing the dangers of climate change and its adverse effects on the state, thanks to Utah’s high schoolers sounding the alarms. Utah’s lawmakers seemed to have come to the mature realization that listening to science as opposed to the usual republican leaders’ ridicule of climate change, a bandwagon of anti-climate change quacks led by President Trump himself, who at one time said, “I don’t think science knows,” in response to the threat posed by climate change.
While Salt Lake Tribune’s report draws hope in what could be achieved when a bipartisan effort is put to solve the state’s problems, political leaders still have a long way to embrace the dangers and threats posed by climate change fully.
Barely a day before the fateful accident, Journalist spencer Joseph implored Utahns to take notice of the material devastation that comes with bush fires when he said,
“Take a look at all of these homes threatened in the newly started brush fire on old snow basin road near Pineview reservoir. These homes are massive and are all evacuated right now.” Utah’s Governor Spencer J. Cox, in reply to him, said, “Just a reminder that, despite some much-needed rain, we are still in extreme/exceptional over 99.96% of the state. This was a human caused fire (target shooting) and we need your help to make sure we don’t have more. Please skip fireworks tonight.”
When it comes to the safety of the people, shouldn’t the Governor, by way of policy, seek to keep Utahns safe than implore people to skip fireworks? While climate change will undoubtedly need a nationwide response and possibly a global response to achieve the minimum threshold to stop the threat of climate change, Utah’s leaders and policymakers should put their hands where their mouth is. They should stop or at least reduce road fatalities that officials believe can significantly be reduced or safeguard homeowners from bush fires caused by few reckless triggers happy residents who care more about target practice than the well-being of their families and neighbors.
When a tragedy unfolds, it affects everyone, and while Sunday’s wreckage has claimed many lives, now is the right time for Utah’s leadership to put the lives of Utahns before any budget or partisan politics and put in place policies that safeguard lives no matter how unpopular or costly, they might be. Utah’s leaders have once before listened to their young high schoolers; perhaps it’s prudent to listen to them once again about their fear of climate change as they are the ones most affected by any decision regarding climate change. Do you think Utahns deserve more than they are getting out of their elected leaders?
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