MURRAY – Data from the Utah Department of Transportation confirmed traffic volume is down and speeding is up during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Utah Highway Patrol troopers started pulling over more lead-footed drivers not long after the "Stay Home, Stay Safe" directive went into effect.
“I’ve seen a lot of really high speeds, very egregious speeding violations,” said UHP Corporal Mike Alexander, who patrols Utah County.
He said spotting a driver going 30 mph over the limit has been common ever since COVID-19 started to reduce the number of cars on the road.
“I think it’s given a few people the feeling of carte blanche to travel as fast as they want to in some cases,” he said.
However, nobody is getting a free pass because of the virus. The speed limit has not changed, and neither has the number of troopers.
“Just recently, I had one at 102 mph here in the construction zone, 42 mph over the speed limit,” he said.
In central Utah, a trooper clocked a speeder going 122 mph in an 80 mph zone.
These violators were all cited today. We're still out doing our job keeping Utah safe. Our modern cars might feel safe at these speeds, until you have to react to an adverse situation in front of you and can't maintain control...putting other's lives at risk. Please slow down! pic.twitter.com/KiiqxaZ5Yq— Utah Highway Patrol (@UTHighwayPatrol) April 9, 2020
Troopers said average daily volume on Interstate 15 is down by a third in Salt Lake County. In Utah County, it was down about 50% last weekend.
UDOT numbers also showed average speeds were more than 10 mph faster during peak times of travel, when rush-hour congestion usually slow drivers down.
“I had one individual tell me that he was late for work and had to get there, and he didn’t really care if he was caught going fast because he felt justified going as quickly as he did,” Alexander said.
And another motorist: “He thought with traffic conditions as they are right now, he felt it was acceptable,” Alexander added.
To keep the public and themselves safe, troopers were taking extra precautions. They are approaching all vehicles from the passenger’s side and never handling drivers licenses or paperwork.
They write down the information and take that back to their patrol vehicles to run the information.
“It limits my exposure and it limits their exposure,” he said. “We just try to keep things as safe as possible for both parties involved.”