Speeders beware: a new bill targets street racing and speeds over 105 mph

Feb 2, 2022, 6:13 PM | Updated: Jun 13, 2022, 3:49 pm
FILE: Salt Lake City Police...
FILE: Salt Lake City Police

Law enforcement have seen a dramatic increase in speeding and street racing since 2020, and on Wednesday a Senate Committee met to discuss a bill that would go after both.

“It’s a tool that we desperately need to help deflate the street racing that’s occurring in our industrial parks on the west side,” said Salt Lake City Police Chief Mike Brown.

Brown says they had a total of 71 street-racing calls into their department in 2019. In 2020, the calls shot up to 409. And “it stayed on a constant pace” in 2021.

On the state’s freeways, the Utah Highway Patrol also saw a 40% jump in drivers speeding in 2020 — roughly 5,700 citations.

“I can tell you what we have right now is not necessarily working,” said Major Jeff Nigbur, assistant superintendent at the Utah Highway Patrol.

2021 was better, but not by much. And in January 2022, they’ve already issued 180 speeding citations.

“I can’t place my finger on it, but at some point in time a lot of people decided it was okay to not only travel over the posted speed limit but over 100 mph,” Nigbur said.

On Wednesday, UHP representatives and Brown discussed the increases to members of the Senate Transportation, Public Utilities, Energy, and Technology Standing Committee.

SB53, sponsored by Sen. Jani Iwamoto, D-Holladay, aims to tackle both problems.

“This is really kind of a finite focus on extreme driving behaviors,” Nigbur said.

The bill goes after those who fly down the highway at or more than 105 mph — automatically labeling it reckless driving and increasing the penalty from an infraction to a class B misdemeanor.

“It’s pretty significant and we hope people take note of that,” Nigbur said. “And hopefully we can curb this dangerous trend were seeing.”

On the streets of Salt Lake City, street racers would face a class A misdemeanor, up from a class B. And it would also target the crowd of people who gather to watch.

“So, the hundreds if not thousands of people out there that are fueling this illegal activity can be cited as well,” Brown said.

Speaking about street racing, Brown said, “It’s easy to say that it’s a victimless crime. It’s not.”

In April 2020, he says someone was killed in a street race. And he points to not only the risk of injury and death, but the impact on nearby businesses and the other crimes street racing events often attract, like drug and gun activity and assaults.

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Speeders beware: a new bill targets street racing and speeds over 105 mph