clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

It’s getting ridiculous, UHP says of excessive speeders in Utah

Utah Highway Patrol troopers enforce the speed limit in a construction zone on I-80 near 1700 East in Salt Lake City.
Utah Highway Patrol troopers enforce the speed limit in a construction zone on I-80 near 1700 East in Salt Lake City on Thursday. The UHP and members of the Utah Department of Transportation announced Thursday they are partnering with 11 Western states for a speed enforcement campaign this weekend.
Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

Excessive speeding and fatal crashes are way up in Utah this year.

So Utah Highway Patrol Maj. Jeff Nigbur said the public should take this as their warning: Slow down and stop the extreme driving behaviors.

“It is getting, honestly, a little bit ridiculous,” he said Thursday. “We will take zero tolerance on this. We've got to stop it.”

The UHP and members of the Utah Department of Transportation announced Thursday they are partnering with 11 Western states for a speed enforcement campaign this weekend. The Western States Traffic Safety Coalition’s Excessive Speed Enforcement Safety Campaign runs Friday through Sunday.

Nigbur said officers statewide will be working 150 extra shifts on the freeways, through construction zones and on city streets looking for “extreme driving behaviors.”

“Once upon a time, we were talking 5 to 10 mph over the speed limit. We have seen a significant increase in people traveling 30 mph over the speed limit. And on the freeway (traveling)... we have seen that go absolutely through the roof this year,” he said.

A Utah Highway Patrol trooper enforces the speed limit in a construction zone on I-80 near 1700 East in Salt Lake City on Thursday, June 24, 2021.
A Utah Highway Patrol trooper enforces the speed limit in a construction zone on I-80 near 1700 East in Salt Lake City on Thursday, June 24, 2021.
Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

In 2020, there was a 29% increase in citations issued to drivers going more than 100 mph, according to the UHP.

More disturbingly, so far in 2021 through Monday, there have been 114 crashes resulting in 136 deaths in Utah. That’s compared to 101 crashes and 110 deaths during the same time in 2020. Of those crashes, the UHP has responded to 57 of them in 2021 that resulted in 63 fatalities, compared to 34 crashes and 37 deaths last year.

From January through May, the UHP responded to 31 fatal crashes that were determined to be “speed related.” And speeding or traveling too fast for conditions was cited as the main contributing factor in 28% of all fatal crashes in Utah sine January 2020.

What is prompting the dramatic uptick in excessive speeding? Nigbur admits that after numerous conversations with other UHP troopers and administrators, they still can’t narrow it down to one thing. He gave examples of drivers pulled over just this week who were going over 100 mph who offered a variety of excuses to troopers.

One man was stopped on I-80 going 109 mph while driving a truck that was pulling a trailer, Nigbur said.

“We had a very heart-to-heart contact with that individual, and he didn’t seem to see what the issue was. He felt like he was safe. And we assured him that if he crashed, his likelihood of surviving or receiving serious bodily injuries significantly increased,” the major said.

Another woman who was pulled over for traveling 105 mph on I-215 told the trooper who stopped her that she was just having a “really bad day.”

“We assured her she was going to continue having a significantly bad day with the enforcement we are going to take and the citation we are going to issue,” he said.

A Utah Highway Patrol trooper enforces the speed limit in a construction zone on I-80 near 1700 East in Salt Lake City on Thursday, June 24, 2021.
A Utah Highway Patrol trooper enforces the speed limit in a construction zone on I-80 near 1700 East in Salt Lake City on Thursday, June 24, 2021.
Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

On Wednesday night, troopers arrested one of about seven bullet bikers believed to have been traveling faster than 150 mph on I-80 in Summit County, weaving in and out of traffic.

One common denominator troopers have noticed with drivers going really fast is many of them are 30 or younger.

So far in 2021, 29% of speed-related crashes involved teenage drivers, according to the UHP, and 72% involved drivers under the age of 30. In 2020, 68% of speed-related crashes involved drivers under 30.

Nigbur said he doesn’t want the public to view the enforcement effort as “punishment.” But rather, he hopes the public will work with troopers to reduce bad behaviors such as excessive speeding, drinking and driving and not wearing a seat belt.

In the end, Nigbur said it isn’t about the numbers, but rather the victims that sometimes a driver going fast doesn’t think about.

“The likelihood of you leaving that crash without significant injury and/or death — and by death I mean not only you but taking a member of the motoring public with you in that crash — increases significantly,” he said. “These are husbands, they’re wives, brothers, they’re sisters. This is real. ... It is not a victimless crime.”

Nigbur hopes this weekend’s enforcement effort will get people to practice safer driving habits going into the Fourth of July weekend when a record number of travelers are expected to hit the road.

“We can’t do this. We’ve got to stop,” Nigbur pleaded with the public. “We have to reel this in quite a bit.”

A Utah Highway Patrol trooper enforces the speed limit in a construction zone on I-80 near 1700 East in Salt Lake City on Thursday, June 24, 2021.
A Utah Highway Patrol trooper enforces the speed limit in a construction zone on I-80 near 1700 East in Salt Lake City on Thursday, June 24, 2021.
Kristin Murphy, Deseret News