The Utah transportation department would have the ability to raise the speed limit to 80 mph anywhere in the state it deems appropriate under a bill that passed the House on Friday.
The state passed its first 80-mph zones five years ago. "So far, we’re finding out that changing the number on the sign is not changing people’s behavior," said Rep. Jim Dunnigan, R-Taylorsville, who sponsored HB80.
He said despite raising the speed limit by 5 mph on two sections of road, people drive less than 2 mph faster.
"People have this kind of built-in comfort level, this kind of built-in speed limit," he said.
UDOT testified earlier that there had been no fatalities in the sections with the higher speed limits, but data contradicted their assertion, showing at least 16 motorist deaths in those areas. On Friday, Dunnigan said that the agency clarified that there had not been any fatalities related to the change in speed limits.
He also said that the speed people drive has little impact on the tailpipe emissions from the vehicles, and cited a study that it could actually reduce some pollutants.
The measure passed the House by a vote of 63-8 and goes to the Senate for consideration.
— Robert Gehrke
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