Utah bill focuses on speed limits, safe travel

| 1/19/2007

A Utah Senate panel has approved a bill that includes provisions to allow drivers to travel faster and more safely.

The Senate Transportation and Public Utilities and Technology Committee voted 5-0 to approve a bill that would increase the speed limits by 5 mph on state highways and interstates.

Truckers and others traveling on rural interstates and other limited access routes would be cleared to drive 80 miles per hour - up from the current 75 mph limit. The speed limit along urban interstates and other roads would increase from 65 mph to 70 mph.

Another provision in the bill is intended to combat aggressive driving on multi-lane highways by keeping most motorists out of the far left-hand lane. Large trucks already are restricted to the right lanes of highways that have at least three lanes of traffic traveling in the same direction.

The proposed change to state law would require vehicles traveling in the left lane to move right, when practical, when they are about to be overtaken by another vehicle.

Sponsored by Sen. Scott Jenkins, R-Plain City, the bill also would require that people traveling on highways adopt a two-second rule.

Jenkins wrote in the bill that drivers must "follow at a distance so that at least two seconds elapse before reaching the location of the vehicle directly in front of the operator's vehicle."

It also would require that drivers preparing to turn right or left must signal their intentions for at least two seconds. Existing law requires a three-second heads up for other drivers.

One other provision in the bill is intended to address the increasing problem of distracted driving. It would create a new category of tickets for "careless" driving. Any person found guilty of two or more moving violations or one moving violation while being distracted by one or more activities not related to the operation of the vehicle would be considered to be driving carelessly.

The bill lists five examples of distracting activities while driving. They include using cell phones, eating, drinking or applying makeup.

Jenkins' bill - SB17 - is headed to the Senate floor for further consideration.

- By Keith Goble, state legislative editor