Lawmaker hopes to increase penalties for extreme speeders, street racers

Dec 29, 2021, 7:22 PM | Updated: 7:24 pm
FILE: Image of the Utah Capitol. Lawmakers could consider a bill in 2022 that would crack down on extreme speeders and those who allow the races to happen. Photo credit: Paul Nelson

SALT LAKE CITY – Public safety officials have pleaded with Utahns to slow down after seeing a rise in the number of citations for extreme speeders, or drivers going over 100 miles per hour.  One Utah lawmaker is hoping her bill would convince drivers to ease up on the gas pedal by increasing the penalties for street racers.

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, troopers with the Utah Highway Patrol saw a dramatic rise in the number of drivers crossing triple digits.  By early December, troopers had given roughly 4,500 tickets for extreme speeds. That’s nearly 1,000 more than the same types of tickets issued in 2019. In 2020, troopers pulled over more than 5,100 drivers going over 100.

“One hundred miles per hour is a speed that, really, if people are in a collision, they can’t survive,” said District Four Senator Jani Iwamoto.

Iwamoto says she has been speaking with UHP Colonel Michael Rapich about this kind of legislation for years. Now, with the rise in extreme speeders, she believes this is the best time to present her bill.

“That was where we got the 100 miles per hour [threshold]. And he’s clocking those all the time,” she says.

If SB 53 passes, anyone caught driving over 100 mph would be charged with reckless driving, which is a class B misdemeanor.  A driver would also face reckless driving charges if they travel more than 25 mph over the posted limit.

Increasing penalties for street racing

The bill also proposes to crack down on street racers and the people who assist them.  Iwamoto said Salt Lake City Police Chief Mike Brown has reported a dramatic rise in illegal street racing.

“I didn’t realize the extent of these [races] and that they’re these big, huge events,” said Iwamoto.

If the bill passes, drivers in these races would face a class A misdemeanor. If their car isn’t street legal, it will be seized. 

Iwamoto said the high speeds reached by these drivers aren’t the only things that make these events dangerous.

“On top of that, when people are racing, other things are going on like drugs and all kinds of other things,” she said.

If SB 53 is approved, people would face class B misdemeanor charges if they block traffic for these races or if they intentionally watch as a spectator.

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Lawmaker hopes to increase penalties for extreme speeders, street racers