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SALT LAKE CITY — A few weeks ago, the speed limits on sections of I-15, I-80 and I-215 along the Wasatch Front were changed. They went up from 65 to 70 mph. There’s been plenty of feedback, both pro and con, about the move.
But we wanted to find out, how are motorists reacting? Are they going the speed limit, or driving even faster?
We put a Go Pro camera on our news vehicle, set the cruise control to 70, and started driving.
We wondered would drivers still zoom past us, like they did when the speed limit was 65? Whether we were in the right, center or left lane, some motorists were still speeding past.
But in this very unscientific driving experiment, we noticed that most of the cars and trucks out there were indeed driving at the new legal speed limit, something UHP troopers appreciate.
“Whether it's in a 70-mph zone an 80-mph zone, we're always concerned with that because we see a lot of speed-related crashes and speed-related fatalities,” said UHP Sgt. Todd Royce.
Excessive speed is a factor in 40 percent of the fatal crashes in Utah.
–Sgt. Todd Royce, Utah Highway Patrol
In fact, Royce said excessive speed is a factor in 40 percent of the fatal crashes in Utah. So far in 2014, 87 people have died in speed-related accidents. With the new, faster speed limits in place, UHP troopers will be watching a bit more closely.
“When we start to see speeds increase on the interstates, that's when we feel it's our job and responsibility as the highway patrol to get out there and enforce that and slow people down,” Royce said.
Since the new speed limit signs have only been up for a couple of weeks, there are no stats yet to indicate whether more speeding citations are being issued. But troopers might get an indication of motorist’s new habits on Friday and Saturday, as extra troopers will fan out across the state on designated speed patrols.
“You'll see a lot more troopers out there, and if you're exceeding the speed limit, you're going to run into one of these troopers,” Royce said.
These extra patrols come at the beginning of the long holiday travel period. From now through the end of the year AAA Utah predicts nearly 7.4 million people in the mountain west to travel — the highest number on record. And most of those, 6.6 million, will drive to their holiday destinations, an increase of 3.4 percent over last year.