Utah drivers to see enhanced penalties in July 1 road rage law

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SALT LAKE CITY — Utah's recently passed road rage law takes effect July 1, but one of the lawmakers who crafted it says the law alone can only go so far in curbing Utah's road rage problem.

The law criminalizes road rage as "an incident that occurred or escalated upon a roadway and with the intent to endanger or intimidate an individual in another vehicle."

It then enhances reckless driving penalties.

For example, it takes a class B misdemeanor and enhances it to a class A misdemeanor. The same happens with a class A misdemeanor, which is enhanced to a third-degree felony.

The law will increase fines starting at $750 and can go as high as $1,000. The perpetrator's driver's license will be revoked, and they could have up to 15 years of jail time, which are some of the stiffer penalties.

If someone uses a dangerous weapon, penalties could be enhanced further.

State Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross, helped craft the new law but said the law alone can only do so much.

"I think we need people to be good citizens. We need law enforcement to step up and be actively patrolling these situations. We need prosecutors to prosecute appropriately. But at least for now, until we get more data, I think the Legislature has done what it can," he said.

The law will also allow the state to collect more data on when road rage incidents are happening. It requires courts to report the number of offenses and enhancements to the Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Interim Committee no later than November 1, 2027.

Weiler said it's possible tweaks could happen if the data calls for it.

"We want to give people an incentive to be good citizens and be good drivers and a disincentive from being jerks out there on the road," he said.

Money from the enhanced fines goes into a fund that will help fund future education and media campaigns.

"I think we saw that during the drought two years ago, when people were educated, they started conserving water without government mandates per se. And so we're hoping to see a similar effect here," Weiler said.

In January, Road to Zero Fatalities ran an ad called "In the Blink of an Eye," which outlines everything that could be lost – family, freedom and loved ones – if you choose to get mad while driving.

Weiler echoed that sentiment, saying that it "takes two to tango" when it comes to road rage but urged the person who reacts to an aggressive driver to think twice.

"Count to 10, and take a deep breath, and just let that jerk go by because if you engage them, it might get 10 times worse," he said.

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Lindsay Aerts
Lindsay is a reporter for KSL-TV who specializes in political news. She attended Utah State University and got a degree in Broadcast Journalism. She previously reported for KSL NewsRadio.


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