Utah litterbugs, bad drivers target of legislation

| 11/19/2007

If a Utah state lawmaker gets his way, the fine for throwing stuff onto highways in the state would increase. Another proposal would make it easier for people to report bad drivers.

State law now calls for people littering or dropping debris along highways to face minimum fines of $100. The Legislature’s Transportation Interim Committee has endorsed a measure pursued by Sen. Patricia Jones, D-Holladay, to increase the minimum fine for repeat offenders to $250.

Lt. Shawn Judd, Section Commander, Utah Highway Patrol, told lawmakers the number of debris crashes in the state continues to escalate. The cost involved to clear debris also is on the rise.

To help foot the bill, revenue from the fines would be put into a special fund to educate motorists on how to properly secure loads. The Utah Department of Transportation also would get money to help with roadside cleanup.

In addition, UDOT could set up a program to allow people to report violations.

Another effort endorsed by the panel is intended to help people report relatives that might not be able to drive safely.

Utah law now requires that drivers be given the name of who reported them to officials. Sen. Allen Christensen, R-North Ogden, is pursing legislation that would ensure anonymity to those reporting drivers whose impairments could pose imminent threats to their own and others’ safety.

The rule would apply to anyone, regardless of age. However, Christensen said the focus is on older drivers.

Christensen offered a similar version during the 2007 session but the Senate rejected the bill because of concerns about people anonymously tattling on someone. Others said older people shouldn’t be singled out as the problem.

To prevent harassing people, the bill includes a provision that would make reporting false concerns punishable up to 90 days in jail and/or up to a $750 fine.

All legislation can be considered during the regular session that begins in January 2008.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Utah in 2007, click here.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor