As proposed legislation goes, House Bill 80 (yes, that is the number for the bill) aimed at raising the speed limit on Utah freeways to 80 mph, is winding its way through the legislative process toward becoming law at an impressive pace. The bill, introduced by Representative Jim Dunnigan, R-Taylorsville, to the House on January 27th, has passed out of the House and was introduced to the Senate on February 10th. As the saying goes, legislating is like making sausage, but this bill is moving quickly by all accounts; it moved to the Senate Transportation and Public Utilities and Technology Committee (yes, that is the name of the Senate Committee) today.
Utah first experimented with 80 mph speed zones in 2008, and the state currently allows 65 mph on urban freeways, with 75 mph on rural freeways and 80 mph on select rural stretches. Last year, Utah added 289 miles of rural freeways to the 80 mph list, but the pending bill would allow the Utah Department of Transportation to expand the zones to any freeway or limited access divided highways where it finds that higher speeds are not precluded by engineering standards. The bill also allows for raising the speed limits on urban freeways to 70 or 75 mph, if it is determined that 80 mph is too high for some stretches of roadway.
There are some, like AAA travel-services company, who oppose the bill and argue that reaction time for drivers is shorter at higher speeds and that accidents and resulting injuries are worse at higher speeds. State statistics, however, suggest that speeds in 80 mph zones only increase by 1 -2 mph and accidents do not increase in frequency or severity. Moreover, no fatal accidents have been reported in the higher speed zones.
I will keep you posted on the ultimate fate of HB 80.
Bret Hanna of Wrona DuBois in Utah, focuses exclusively on litigating plaintiffs’ medical malpractice and catastrophic personal injury cases. He has represented clients in state and federal courts, in mediations, and in administrative proceedings in Michigan and Utah since 1991.