By Mike McClary
The Arizona Republic
When I learned of the recent car/horse accident that claimed the life of a woman on Rio Verde Drive, I wasn’t surprised.
The fact is, it doesn’t matter if you travel on wheels or hooves, when you venture onto Rio Verde Drive, you’re simply another moving target.
Much of the publicity around the deadly wreck centered on how open-range livestock and city slickers don’t mix. I don’t buy it. Anyone familiar with this road knows, or at least should know, that the blame rests squarely with dangerously high speeds.
If you’ve ever driven on it, you know there is something mesmerizing about Rio Verde Drive. As you come over the hill east of Troon North on Dynamite Boulevard and head toward Rio Verde, the view is spectacular.
In the daylight, it seems as if you can see forever – and as if the road never ends. It’s straight, narrow and smooth, and if you aren’t careful, pretty soon you’re going 70 m.p.h. in a 50-m.p.h. zone.
After the sun goes down, it’s a different story.
Visibility is so limited that 40 m.p.h. feels like 70 m.p.h.
When we moved out to this part of town two years ago, the last piece of advice our builder gave us was: “Don’t drive too fast out here. The cows and horses are everywhere.”
The man was right. But that’s what drew us to the area – wandering livestock, stunning views, a quiet setting.
In one respect, this scenic part of Arizona is no different from the last subdivision we lived in. We just traded lead-footed teenagers for adults with similarly bad habits.
The question I have is, where is everyone going in such a hurry? Isn’t this supposed to be the laid-back American West that prides itself on the principle of “we’ll get there when we get there”?
I admit that the difference between 50 mph and 70 mph won’t change the outcome, say, for a coyote that steps in front of your car. But it might affect how your leisurely drive ends. Driving 65 or 70, you could spin out of control into an oncoming car. Or drive into the ditch.
So why risk life in the fast lane? Just take it easy and drive the speed limit.
The danger out here isn’t limited to wildlife, although cows and horses get the headlines. Just ask any cyclist who braves this street, only to be almost run over by a soaring dump truck. Or a jogger on the dirt roads coming off Rio Verde who’s almost embedded in a tree by a dirt bike or four-wheeler.
Even those of us driving in our cars aren’t safe from the ridicule of tailgaters. It usually comes in the form of a few unprintable words and a one-finger salute. Of course, we provoked it by doing something heinous. You know, like slowing down enough to make a right turn.
Ultimately, I don’t know what will make people slow down. I thought this most recent accident would have sent a grim reminder, but so far nothing has changed.
Here’s what I do know: Until drivers lay off the gas pedal and get real, grisly scenes on Rio Verde Drive soon will become the rule, not the exception.
Mike McClary is a freelance writer and corporate communications consultant who lives in Scottsdale. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.