We’re finding out changing the number on the sign has not changed people’s behavior. —Rep. James Dunnigan, R-Taylorsville
SALT LAKE CITY — The House approved a bill Friday that would allow the speed limit to be raised as high as 80 mph on highways and freeways throughout the state.
Rep. James Dunnigan, R-Taylorsville, the sponsor of HB80, said Utah has increased the posted speed limit to 80 mph on nearly 380 miles of freeway over the past five years.
"We’re finding out changing the number on the sign has not changed people’s behavior," Dunnigan said, citing Utah Department of Transportation studies that showed most drivers only upped their speed a few miles per hour.
"People have this kind of built-in comfort level, built-in speed limit," he said, noting UDOT determined that the deaths that have occurred on freeway sections with 80 mph speed limits were not related to the increase.
Dunnigan said his bill would permit UDOT to increase the speed limits on some sections of freeways in urban areas from 65 mph to 70 mph or 75 mph, and to 80 mph in less-populated areas of the state.
Higher speed limits do not have a negative impact on air quality, he said, even an increase of as much as 15 mph.
"I think we're all concerned about safety. I think we're all concerned about air quality," Dunnigan said. "It's hard to say what will happen in the future, but we have five years of data now."
The bill passed the House 63-8 and now goes to the Senate.
— Lisa Riley Roche