Utahns could use a refresher on these traffic laws, highway patrol sergeant says
Oct 30, 2023, 6:00 PM | Updated: Nov 3, 2023, 9:34 am
(Steve Griffin/Deseret News)
Editorial note: This article has been changed to reflect that riding in the back of a pickup truck is not illegal in Utah.
SALT LAKE CITY — As we approach winter driving conditions, the Utah Highway Patrol is asking all drivers to brush up on the state’s traffic laws, especially the ones Utahns tend to forget.
Impeding traffic while in the left lanes on the freeway, proper use of cell phones while driving and whether it’s required to have your registration card in the vehicle, are all questions answered on the Utah Department of Safety website.
While a lot of the traffic law questions make sense, some of them leave you scratching your head.
UHP Sergeant Cameron Roden said he’s had to pull people over for an interesting HOV lane violation.
“People see the dotted lines in the HOV lane and even though they’re a single occupant, they think they can use that dotted line area to pass, that’s not a passing zone, or you can pass that left lane loafer or anything like that.”
Speeders in the left lane
Roden said the number one question the UHP gets asked is about speeders in the left lane.
“People being in the left lane and that they’re clogging up traffic when there’s more than one lane traveling in the same direction and there’s cars coming up behind, the person is required to move over and yield to that traffic that is coming up behind.”
Even if you’re driving the speed limit, Roden said it’s best to move over and, “Let them go down the road and get that speeding ticket.”
Speeding isn’t just an issue in the left lane, of course.
Roden said a lot of people also have questions about speeders in the HOV lane.
The HOV’s rules are different than the left lane’s rules. The HOV lane has two solid lines that drivers can’t cross.
“So if you’ve got traffic coming up behind you, you’re not required to move over because that would be a violation for you to cross those double white lines and allow them to pass.”
He said the best thing to do is get over as soon as there’s a dotted white line and let those drivers pass.
There is an exception for crossing the double white line in the HOV lane though.
“The move-over law does require as they’re approaching an officer, whether they’d be on the shoulder or they’re blocking lanes, to slow down, reduce their speeds and if they’re able to, move over into an adjoining lane.”
Roden said that people get nervous when they see law enforcement on the side of the road or coming up behind them in the HOV lane.
“A lot of times people get nervous saying ‘Okay, what do I do? I’m required by law to move over for law enforcement but I can’t cross that double white line.’ In those times, it is okay and the law does allow you to cross that double white line.”
Turn signals and distance
Utahns are often accused of changing lanes without using their turn signals. Roden said the law governing how long you have to use a blinker was recently changed.
“It used to be three seconds, they’ve moved that to two seconds. So you have to be able to signal for two seconds before changing lanes or making that lateral movement. Two seconds isn’t a long time but a lot of times people don’t wait to signal til the very last second until they’re usually moving over already.”
He said speeding is the number one violation troopers see, but a lot of crashes are actually caused by following too close. Roden said the faster you’re going, the more time you need between you and the vehicle in front of you.
Play it safe, get off at the next exit
Many of us have probably seen a driver cut across that painted triangle at an on or off-ramp. That triangle is a gore area, and you shouldn’t be crossing it.
“Most of the time, what we see is they’re late to take their exit… So they shoot across that little triangle between the ramp and main flow to try to make their exit. That has caused crashes.”
A driver crossing the gore area nearly hit Roden himself, he said.
So rather than crossing the gore area, Roden said to go to the next exit, turn around and come back.
Crossing between lanes already proves to be hard for some drivers. So how should Utahns handle merging?
Roden said that you should follow Utah’s zipper merge law.
“As you’re getting two lanes that are merging together, every other vehicle is supposed to work in that zipper fashion whereas one from the main flow goes and then one from the on-ramp goes,” and so on, Roden said.
“Very much like a zipper where those two lanes are going to become one.”
Follow Utah traffic laws, use common sense
One of the weirdest questions troopers get? Do I have to wear shoes while driving in Utah? Roden said no – but driving without something on your feet is not a good idea. Another bad idea is riding in the back of a pickup truck.
He said some other rules you would think are common sense include:
- no open containers of alcohol in a motor vehicle, and
- all passengers are required to wear seat belts.
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