Latest News 2017 July Bad Roads, Bad Accidents, & Suffering Communities

Bad Roads, Bad Accidents, & Suffering Communities

Roman history is marked by unprecedented glories and victories of any ancient empire. Without Internet, without phones, and without electricity, the Romans efficiently managed an area of lands thousands of square miles wide encompassing hundreds of different languages, cultures, and people groups. The Romans not only conquered a massive area of the world—they managed to provide consistent government services from Britain to North Africa.

Historians will attribute their notable achievements to that most un-sexy of topics: infrastructure. Specifically, the Romans were masters of road-building. Their road system was one of the marvels of the ancient world. In a time where the average road was a dirt track, Romans created smooth, stone-paved roads that withstood snow, flooding, fire, and decades of constant travel.

By that standard, the Navajo communities of southeastern Utah are no better off than most ancient communities in Roman times.

San Juan County is home to 7,000 members of the Navajo nation, a small fraction of the 173,000 members living in New Mexico, Utah, and Arizona. In the Navajo areas of San Juan County, only 1 in 5 of the roads are paved—the majority of unpaved roads lack gravel and are largely just dirt tracks. School bus routes take roughly 2 hours each way.

Roads in poor condition is more than an inconvenience. The effects of bad roads can be damaging to the economy, to education, and to health. In some cases, bad roads can be life-threatening.

Here are just some of the effects of poor roads in San Juan County:

  • Inclement weather caused 2 weeks of school cancellations in a single semester
  • Diabetes patients often miss dialysis appointments
  • Ambulances sometimes can't get to patients until a 4-wheel drive vehicle drives by
  • People can't find work or hold down jobs outside of town
  • Residents living further apart often have a difficult time leaving home or getting services

Keep in mind that closing school for 2 weeks in a 12-week semester isn't a minor hiccup—that's a loss of nearly a fifth of the school year. That's like losing 1 day a week for the entire semester. Most school syllabi will give each student a maximum of 2 weeks' worth of absences per semester because they recognize that being away from school for longer than 2 weeks hinders performance.

When it comes to car accidents, bad road conditions don't just contribute to the accidents themselves—it contributes to the severity of car accident injuries. The deadliest roads in America aren't busy highways; they're highways where the nearest emergency services are hours away. If you've been seriously injured in a car accident in San Juan County, depending on passerby for access to ambulance services could be catastrophic.

Why Are the Roads So Bad in San Juan County?

As is often the case for infrastructure in tribal lands, the roads are bad because no one has taken responsibility for them. The federal government once reimbursed the county up to $500,000 a year for road improvements, but that ended in 2012 when the Indian School Bus Route Maintenance Program expired. Subsequent efforts to renew the program haven't been successful.

The Navajo nation, meanwhile, has limited funding that it must spread across three states to meet the needs of 173,000 people. Utah (the whole state) only has 2 of the 24 delegates in the Navajo legislature. Of the 110 "chapters" (local governing bodies) of the Navajo nation, only 7 are based in Utah. We've already mentioned that San Juan County makes up only 4% of the Navajo nation. As you might guess, this corner of the world doesn't get a sizable piece of already-limited funding.

Finally, the county simply doesn't have the resources to provide for the roads for their Navajo residents. Even if they did, local government officials (with some notable exceptions) have a hard time investing in land that the county doesn't technically own. The Navajo lands in San Juan County belong to the Navajo nation and are held in trust by the federal government.

Then there's the issue of cost. One county official, Rebecca Benally, has been fighting for better roads for the Navajo community. As a reservation resident and former teacher, she understands how important good roads are to the community's education and physical health. She developed a project just to lay down some gravel on the dirt roads. Her project didn't even include all the roads—just the routes that the school bus used.

The estimated cost? $18 million.

The total annual budget for the whole county? $12 million.

For the Navajo of San Juan County, getting better roads means living better, safer lives. Unfortunately, it also means fighting for funding on three different fronts: county level, reservation level, and the federal level. And on all three fronts, there's a long and unlikely battle ahead.

Bad roads means longer hours of travel, less driver safety, and severe car accident effects. With so little government support, individual Navajo have to turn to car accident attorneys for relief.

If you've been injured in a car accident due to poor road conditions or poor road design, your local government may be to blame. If your attorney can prove negligence on their part, they will be liable to pay for your medical care, loss of wages, loss of earning ability, and perhaps mental pain and anguish. Find out who is responsible—and hold them accountable for your injuries.

Find a car accident attorney here today.