“Is it time to start electronic surveillance?” What’s left when ticketing has little impact on Utah’s superspeeders?

Even with harsher penalties, too many drivers are driving 100 mph or more, the Utah Highway Patrol tells lawmakers.

(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) More cars than ever are speeding on Utah’s freeways, the Utah Highway Patrol said Tuesday, many at more than 100 miles per hour.

This story is part of The Salt Lake Tribune’s ongoing commitment to finding solutions to Utah’s biggest challenges through the work of the Innovation Lab.

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Despite higher fines and misdemeanors on their records, the Utahns aren’t hitting the brakes.

In several cases, Utah Highway Patrol officials have ticketed drivers who were going 100 miles per hour, only to catch the speeders just down the road and get a ticket again, UHP Colonel Mike Rapich told the Transportation Interim Committee of the Utah Legislature at the State Capitol this week during a security update.

It could be a cultural attitude issue, Rapich said. The data he provided showed that the number of speeding summonses issued continued to rise after May 4, when the new penalties went into effect, raising questions about what might actually be slowing drivers in the Beehive State.

“Is it time we started electronic surveillance?” asked Republican Senator David Buxton, representing Davis and Weber counties. “Or would doubling the penalty help? It seems like some of these kids who get caught in these high speed vehicles are just flipping their noses at you.”

What was tried?

In 2022, lawmakers passed driver speeding amendments that increased the minimum penalties for driving over 100 mph and made speeding over 105 mph a Class B offence.

“I think we made a big shift last year,” Rapich said. “And we look forward to that.”

He said the increases were partly due to the UHP doubling down on efforts to tackle speeding. “I think that shows up in increased enforcement and they’re more successful at identifying those,” Rapich told the committee.

“The problem is obviously still there,” Rapich said.

From Jan. 1 to May 3, 2022, the Utah Highway Patrol issued 2,058 subpoenas to drivers who went faster than 100 miles per hour, Rapich said. In the six months after the tougher penalties went into effect, nearly 800 more subpoenas were issued.

Subpoenas for speeding over 105 miles per hour also increased from 720 in the first part of the year to 967 after May 4th.

Utah isn’t the only state where speeding tickets haven’t stopped speeding.

A 2007 study examining violations in Maryland found that drivers who received speeding subpoenas were more likely to receive speeding subpoenas in the future. The researchers wrote that the results likely mean “that speeding subpoenas have limited deterrence effects.”

Digital surveillance, other solutions

Lawmakers wondered if more legislative changes were needed to really slow down drivers.

“If I had a choice,” said Carlos Braceras, executive director of the Utah Department of Transportation, “we would put a police officer at every intersection every kilometer of the highway because the visibility of a police officer helps people do the right thing.”

Instead, he floated the idea of ​​electronic speed enforcement in work and school zones. “Eventually,” Braceras said, “this conversation is going to happen, and I know we need to put in place the privacy protections that are so important to us as a state.”

A review of the effectiveness of speed cameras found that accidents resulting in fatalities and serious injuries were reduced by 11% to 44% in 35 different studies. The authors finally concluded that “speed cameras are a useful intervention to reduce road traffic injuries and fatalities”.

Even in the face of such data, Utah lawmakers have not taken well to mandating digital traffic enforcement. Legislation sponsored by Senator Jerry Stevenson to lift a ban on the use of photographic radar to enforce speed limits failed in 2022, making certain types of digital surveillance unlikely in the near future.

“I work closely with the Highway Patrol,” Buxton told the Tribune. “They don’t seem to think that’s the right thing to do at this point, but times are changing and when the time is right we will move towards that.”

https://www.sltrib.com/news/2022/10/21/is-it-time-we-start-electronic/ “Is it time to start electronic surveillance?” What’s left when ticketing has little impact on Utah’s superspeeders?

Justin Scacco

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