Several years ago, the Utah Legislature passed a bill increasing the speed on some of Utah’s highways from 75 mph to 80 mph and more highways have been added since then. It was then argued that the increase was simply to match the speed that most Utah drivers were going, which was just over 80 mph.
Sadly, the bill received strong support in both the House and Senate, with the exception of several Democrats, including former Rep. Patrice Arent and current Rep. Joel Briscoe, and former Senators Pat Jones. and Brian Shiozawa.
Now it has been reported that the Utah Highway Patrol has prevented people from going 100 mph and above. Speeding tickets and fatalities are on the rise in Utah this year, according to UHP. The year 2020 saw a 29% increase in citations for those exceeding 100 mph.
In my life, people have always exceeded the posted speed. Since people were driving lightly over 80 mph when the posted speed was 75 mph, our lawmakers should have been wise enough to know that people would be driving over 80 mph when displayed. Test studies done in the early areas where the speed was increased showed that people only exceeded a little over 80 mph. So apparently our wiser than wise lawmakers assumed that this trend would continue even in the face of evidence that people have exceeded the speed limit and some significantly exceeded the speed limit since cars entered our lives. It was mentioned in a bill committee hearing that the purpose of the bill was not to change behavior but to match behavior. So much for that.
What they didn’t take into account was the tendency of humans to get used to the new speed limit and adjust their behaviors accordingly. Since soldiers and others have been inclined to include a “fudge factor” when it comes to stopping speeding tickets, many drivers now estimate that they can drive from 5 to 10 to even 20 mph at the same time. above the displayed speed and descend. In fact, the Utah Highway Patrol said in a committee hearing on Bill HB80 that it reduced the fudge factor as the speed increased, but added that most of the time it did. was only giving warnings. What effect did it have? Apparently none, but UHP has lost its sense of humor about it now. And for good reason.
The National Center for Biotechnology Information, part of the National Institute of Health, published a study on “Long-term effects of repealing the national maximum speed limit in the United States.” They found “a 3.2% increase in road fatalities attributable to increased speed limits on all types of roads in the United States. The highest increases were recorded on rural (9.1%) and urban (4.0%) highways. They estimated that increasing speed limits across the country contributed to 12,545 deaths and 36,583 injuries. Their conclusion was that “reduced speed limits and better enforcement of radar networks could immediately reduce speeds and save lives, in addition to reducing gas consumption, reducing air pollutant emissions, saving precious years of productivity and reduce the cost of motor vehicle accidents. . “In addition, high-speed driving on highways results in higher speeds on intercity connecting roads and even on urban roads due to a spillover effect which may persist for some time.
For several years, UDOT has implemented its “Zero Fatalities” program with the aim of helping to save lives on our roads. But, as the “Zero Fatalities” website reveals the number of road fatalities is on the rise on Utah roads: “According to preliminary estimates from UDOT, the number of road fatalities in 2020 has increased. increased by 11% to a total of 276, while the number of cars on the road decreased by 13% in 2020. ”The UDOT blames distracted driving, aggressive driving (including driving too fast), driving drowsy driving, impaired driving (including even prescription drugs) and not wearing a seat belt. Yes, these are all problems, but they are exacerbated by driving too fast, and our increased speed limits make the problem worse. Driving at 85 could have been considered aggressive driving when the posted limit was 75 mph. Driving at 85 is now considered normal.
Worse yet, UDOT has been one of the proponents of increasing the speed limit to 80 mph when their own “Zero Fatality” program appears to contradict that position. As of June 21, 2021, 136 deaths had resulted from 114 crashes in Utah, compared to 110 fatalities and 101 crashes during the same period in 2020. Those who abuse this situation must be checked and UDOT must hold its own. “Zero Deaths” speech. and push for lower speeds.
Driving in Salt Lake City recently and staying within the 80mph limit or slightly above, people were passing us like we were standing still. I guess they were going at least 90 and maybe more. When people are on a freeway in the slow lane and need to pass someone who is going slower, they need to have some assurance that someone approaching in the fast lane does not exceed the speed limit by 20 miles or more. . But despite this, we didn’t see any soldiers and certainly no one being stopped for speeding.
The legislature has missed the mark on this issue and put all Utahns and others on our roads in great danger. Those who drive at excessive speeds can reach their destination faster, but at what risk to themselves and to others. Selfishness is not what we need on our roads. The execution is.
Lisa Rutherford is a resident of Ivins.