SALT LAKE CITY — Law enforcers are going to get aggressive with aggressive drivers.
As part of their safety campaign during the 100 Deadliest Days of Summer, the Utah Highway Patrol and the Unified Police Department Thursday launched an effort to crack down on aggressive driving. Utah Department of Public Safety Commissioner Keith Squires defined aggressive drivers as motorists who are "driving much too fast" and "driving faster than everyone around them" and often are involved in "unsafe rapid lane changes."
"We're talking about the people zipping by at high rates of speed," added UHP Col. Danny Fuhr.
As part of the campaign, the UHP unveiled maps from Ogden to Spanish Fork displaying the results of a two-year study showing where the biggest "hot spots" or problem areas are located along the Wasatch Front. The areas were calculated by using crash and speed data.
"If we can maybe slow down traffic, if we can maybe eliminate texting, if we can eliminate aggressive driving-type behaviors, we'll be able to decrease crashes in those areas," Fuhr said.
The worst hot spots, according to the study, are along I-15 in Salt Lake County, particularly from downtown Salt Lake City to near 3300 South, and from Murray to Point of the Mountain. Many of those areas correlate with on- and off-ramps.
In Davis County, the hot spots include the I-15 areas between Farmington and Centerville, and between Layton and Clearfield. In Utah County, the hot spots are on I-15 between Point of the Mountain and Lehi, between Pleasant Grove and Orem, and from about Springville to Spanish Fork.
Unified police are involved in the operation because, as Chief Jim Winder noted, "The issue of aggressive driving is not simply a highway issue, it is a surface street problem as well to a large extent."
If a driver has ever become "infuriated" by an aggressive driver who recklessly drives past them, this campaign is an effort to resolve that, Winder said.
Unified officers and UHP troopers will use unmarked vehicles in those hot spots to specifically target aggressive drivers. Operations like this take time to unfold because an officer typically has to follow an aggressive driver before pulling them over, according to Winder.
"That effort pays off in terms of a safer driving experience for all of us," he said.
Fuhr said officials want all drivers on the road to be going the same speed. The operation will run through the weekend, 24 hours a day, and then continue occasionally afterward.
There were 256 fatalities on Utah's highways during 2014. That's up 36 from the year before and is the highest number since 2008, according to the group Zero Fatalities. Sixty-eight of those deaths were attributed to aggressive driving.
Contributing: Peter Samore