Speeding over 100 mph? Be ready to pay up, troopers say
TAYLORSVILLE, Utah – A lead foot can now cost you a small fortune in Utah, and it may even add a misdemeanor to your record.
Fines for driving over 100 mph in the Beehive State are accelerating by an extra 50% under a new law designed to curb a pandemic spike in fatal crashes. And for good reason, said Col. Michael Rapich with the Utah Highway Patrol.
“If anything goes wrong at those kinds of speeds, it’s going to end in a horrible crash,” Rapich said.
At 105 mph, drivers can now face a charge of reckless driving, a class B misdemeanor, rather than an infraction like in the past. The changes took effect May 4, and troopers cited at least 70 drivers for the offense since then, according to the Utah Highway Patrol.
Last year, 328 people died on Utah roads, reaching a 20-year record after years of declining fatalities.
Speed was a factor in about 1 in 4 of those crashes — more than DUI, which account for about 15% of collisions, according to data from the Highway Patrol.
And although the overall number of crashes has dipped in the last two years, the collisions are more lethal, resulting in more deaths than before the pandemic.
Sen. Jani Iwamoto, D-Holladay, sponsored the new law because of her concerns about the rising numbers and the disregard for safety she’s observed on Utah’s roads.
“The increase, to my mind, was astronomical to years prior,” Iwamoto said.
Speed-related crashes just keep happening, she noted, like the nine-car pileup in Sandy two weeks ago, that left one driver dead and hospitalized many more.
Earlier this year, some lawmakers resisted Iwamoto’s push to toughen the law, but she said the troubling statistics persuaded them to pass the changes.
In the three years leading up to the pandemic, troopers handed out an average of 3,500 citations per year to those driving 100 mph, Rapich said. In 2020, the number soared to more than 5,000, before dipping slightly last year.
In newer cars, the ride may be so smooth that drivers don’t realize they’re cruising at dangerous speeds, he added.
And many are tempted to tear down an open road. But the combination of speed and even common obstacles in the road – like debris, wildlife, or a car ahead drifting into your lane – can kill in an instant.
“These are horrible incidents,” Rapich said. “They’re violent, and their deadly, and our troopers see that.”
On a recent Friday afternoon, Utah Highway Patrol Cpl. Mikki Vargas stopped a 17-year-old driver whizzing by at 97 mph on westbound I-215 in West Valley City. He wasn’t going fast enough to face the higher fees, but Vargas warned him that catastrophe could catch up with him.
“You could have very easily not made it home to your family or friends,” she told him. “And that’s not worth it, so just think about it.”
At 100 mph, fines are going up by an extra 50% under the change.
These are the new, minimum fines for driving 100 mph in areas with following speed limits:
- In a 65-mph zone: $760
- In a 70-mph zone: $570
- In an 80-mph zone: $315
In May, troopers ticketed a total of 182 drivers for speeding over 105 mph. Many were speeding in busy traffic areas: Several were stopped on busy stretches of I-15 and I-215 along the Wasatch Front.
Just 70 of those were cited for the misdemeanor, the agency said, as it sought to inform drivers about the change, not just enforce it during the first month. Troopers aren’t required to issue a reckless driving citation for everyone they observe driving 105 mph, but they now have the option.
The misdemeanor offense carries about $1,900 in fines and court fees, Iwamoto said, even if no crash occurs and the driver isn’t impaired. Rapich expects prosecutors will likely seek jail time only in most extreme cases.
The measure also codified street racing on highways as a class A misdemeanor.
KSL-TV is committed to being part of the solution. Our “Road to Zero Fatalities: You Hold the Key Campaign” encourages everyone to follow the ABC’s of safer driving: Drive attentively. Drive buckled. Drive calm.
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