A concentrated effort last month to slow speeding drivers on U.S. Highway 89 through Davis County - dubbed the "new Utah Death Strip" by police agencies - resulted in 463 speeding citations to motorists and even more written and verbal warnings.
The enforcement push was a combined effort by the Davis County Sheriff's Department and the Utah Highway Patrol.City officials along the highway, known to locals as the "mountain road" because it skirts the foothills of the Wasatch Front, have expressed concern to law enforcement and highway officials about the high number of accidents and fatalities on the four-lane highway.
At the request of Fruit Heights Mayor Dean Brand, the sheriff's department coordinated with UHP for the July traffic enforcement push, sheriff's Capt. K.D. Simpson said.
Patrol and paramedic units were diverted to the highway, radar was set up in high visibility spots, and some overtime shifts added, Simpson said, which cost the department about $3,000 for the month.
Instead of the normal 10 to 15 speeding citations that deputies would issue in the Fruit Heights area in a month, they wrote 352. UHP troopers added another 111, according to Lt. Gary Gunrud, for a total of 463 speeding tickets written during July.
Citations were written for drivers clocked at more than 65 mph on the 55-mph highway, Simpson said. Drivers between 60 and 64 mph were given written warnings, totaling 104, and those between 55 and 59 mph received verbal warnings.
The sheriff's department also wrote 13 tickets for seat belt and child restraint violations and five right-of-way citations, according to Sgt. Kevin McLeod.
Gunrud said UHP troopers, in addition to the 111 speeding citations, issued 21 warning tickets, 17 seat belt and child restraint citations, and 11 other moving violation tickets. There were also three alcohol-related citations.
The top speed clocked by deputies was 99 mph, McLeod said, by a 17-year-old Bountiful youth stopped at 4 a.m. one morning. The next highest speed was 83 mph.
Who are these speeders? For the most part it's just the usual people who drive the highway every day, Simpson said.
A computer analysis of violators showed Ogdenites accounted for 115 of the tickets, followed by 50 Layton residents and 45 Salt Lake drivers. And there are some who should know better, Simpson said, pointing out 24 Kaysville drivers and 10 from Fruit Heights - the two cities most concerned about speeding traffic - were cited.
Did the highly visible push work? Simpson believes it did. A survey by the Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) prior to the push showed traffic averaged 61 mph.
McLeod said average speed dropped to 59 mph after July, based on a survey of 100-vehicle blocks of traffic.
"People are aware now, and that's the key element," said Simpson. "You can see them slowing down, you can watch your radar unit and see they're paying attention. "In our experience, we find people speed because they're not paying attention, they just don't look at their speedometer.
Both McLeod and Simpson agreed the enforcement was generally a success. Contacts among troopers, deputies and the public were generally friendly, with only a few complaints,
"We didn't even have any screaming matches, which we usually can count on in something like this," said Simpson. Not everybody learned their lesson, however. McLeod pointed out on a computer-generated sheet the names of several who received more than one ticket during the month.