CRIME

‘Chill out’: Utah drivers urged to avoid road rage as new law takes effect July 1

Jun 20, 2024, 4:06 PM | Updated: 7:09 pm

SALT LAKE CITY — Peter Salm’s voice broke as he remembered the day last year when his father called him with news that upended his life.

“I said what’s happening, and he said, well, Rodney’s been killed,” Peter Salm said, becoming emotional. “It was a gut shot.”

Rodney Salm, 48, and his girlfriend, Michaela Himmelberger, 47, were both killed in a road rage crash in June 2023 in Eagle Mountain. The other driver has been charged in their deaths.

Peter Salm joined law enforcement at a news conference Thursday morning at the Utah State Capitol to talk about his brother’s death and to tell other drivers, “this kind of stuff has to stop.”

“Your vehicle isn’t a weapon,” Peter Salm said. “Stop treating it as such.”

Utah family shares message on anniversary of deadly road rage crash

Reports of road rage to dispatchers are up 32% since 2020, according to the Utah Department of Public Safety. Officials hope a new law taking effect July 1 will help curb this growing problem.

“We need people to chill out,” said Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross, sponsor of HB30, which was passed during the last legislative session. “We need people to be patient, and we need people to respect other citizens on the roadways.”

Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross speaking on the Capitol steps in a presser about road rage in Utah.

Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross speaking on the Capitol steps in a presser about road rage in Utah. (Nathan Riser, KSL TV)

The new law more clearly defines road rage, and it allows police and prosecutors to impose stiffer penalties on drivers who do it.

“What we’re addressing here is the worst of driving behavior,” said Utah Highway Patrol Col. Michael Rapich, “and the worst actions that come from those incidents.”

Utah has had several recent high-profile cases of road rage. On Thursday, a suspect in a deadly incident from earlier this month in Clearfield was arrested. Justin Kent Doman, 34, is now charged with murder in the death of James Edward Saccato, 63.

Shooter questioned and released after Clearfield road rage shooting left another man dead

In Lehi, police are investigating two other cases of road rage. A truck was caught on camera hitting a Tesla last weekend. And earlier this month, a man was beaten to death in front of his children in what police said was a fight stemming from road rage.

“It’s a tragedy,” said Lehi Deputy Police Chief Jeff Magnusson, noting the cases were completely preventable. “Both drivers could have just drove off and it wouldn’t have been an incident at all, and everybody would have gone home.”

Officials said that’s the message – take a breath, don’t engage, and remember road rage isn’t worth it.

“There are too many people dying on our streets because of impatience,” Weiler said, “because of unkindness and intolerance.”

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‘Chill out’: Utah drivers urged to avoid road rage as new law takes effect July 1