A statewide survey for the Utah Department of Public Safety found Utahns want stricter drunken driving enforcement and more highway patrol troopers on the roads after midnight.
The survey, part of which the department released Friday, was conducted by Dan Jones & Associates in August 1990. It polled a random sample of 605 Utah drivers and is accurate within four percentage points.Nearly two-thirds, 61 percent, of the respondents said they want the Utah Highway Patrol to concentrate on drunken drivers. And 58 percent said it was "very important" to have troopers patrolling the state's roads after midnight, with 35 percent finding it "somewhat important."
The UHP is viewed as "effective" in doing its job by 86 percent of the respondents. The patrol's job performance was rated "excellent" by 25 percent, "good" by 57 percent, "fair" by 14 percent and "poor" by 2 percent, according to the survey.
Respondents under 34 years of age and living in Salt Lake County, where troopers are on the road 24 hours a day, were "significantly" more likely to give the UHP "fair to poor" marks.
But, when asked why they felt the UHP was ineffective, most replied there are not enough troopers. Only one out of three surveyed was aware the UHP does not routinely patrol most of rural Utah's roads after midnight.
"This survey is the best gauge yet for determining what drivers expect from us. We will use it in setting the agenda for traffic law enforcement for the next several years," Public Safety Commissioner Doug Bodrero said.
Bodrero said he would take the survey to Capitol Hill to make a case for the Legislature to spend $1.5 million on a "skeleton crew" of 33 more troopers in areas of the state that are not patrolled after midnight.
While the majority polled said they wanted troopers on the road after midnight, only 48 percent said they were willing to pay higher gasoline taxes to help support the UHP, the survey said.
Last year, the administration's request for 32 more troopers was whittled to five by the Legislature. Some lawmakers told Bodrero that their constituents feared more troopers would mean more speed traps and tickets.
But Bodrero said a soon-to-be released portion of the survey showed 59 percent of those polled supported the 55 mph, and older drivers leaned toward stricter speed enforcement.
"The perplexing thing is no one abides by it," he said.
One explanation Bodrero offered is that 80 percent said they were excellent drivers, indicating the speed limit was to keep others in line, not themselves. Other areas the 57-question survey covered were seat belts and child restraints, speeding, drivers education, driver's license renewal processes and effectiveness of department publicity campaigns.
Bodrero said the survey will help the department meet public needs in formulating its highway safety programs.