The Utah Legislature has approved a bill that no longer
includes a provision to allow drivers to travel faster. It does include several
other highway-safety related provisions.
A House-Senate conference committee reached agreement on the
bill, clearing the way for it to head to Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. to be signed
As introduced in the Senate the bill allowed speed limits to
be increased by 5 mph on state highways and interstates for all vehicles. The
provision was stripped from the bill - SB17 - in the House.
Sen. Scott Jenkins, R-Plain City, the bill sponsor, sought
to allow 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
have increased from 65 mph to 70 mph.
"We're trying to increase or improve the flow of traffic,"
Jenkins recently told the Deseret Morning
News. He cited statistics that show in some cases, higher speed limits
improve traffic flow and result in fewer wrecks.
Opponents of higher speeds said that regardless of any
statistics, perception by many people is that increasing speeds would actually
result in more wrecks.
The speed limit provision wasn't the only language in the
bill that unsettled some people at the Capitol. House lawmakers removed another
provision to create a new category of tickets for "careless" driving.
However, the Senate wanted the careless driving provision
included. As a result, the conference committee reached agreement to reinsert
the provision. That provision calls for 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 - to be considered
to have been driving carelessly.
The bill lists five examples of distracting activities while
driving. They include using cell phones, eating or drinking. To be ticketed for
careless driving, motorists would first have to be stopped for another traffic
Other parts of the bill include a provision that 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 with at least three lanes 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.
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.
- By Keith Goble,
state legislative editor