New Utah law sets stiff penalties for road rage

May 15, 2024

Keith Goble

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A new Utah law addresses concerns about road rage on state roadways.

The Utah Department of Transportation reported over the past four years there were an average of 25 aggressive driving deaths annually in the state. Utah averaged fewer than 14 aggressive driving deaths annually during the previous six years.

In an effort to reduce incidents, Gov. Spencer Cox, a Republican, has signed into law a bill to create a definition for road rage in statute.

Previously HB30, the new law defines “road rage events” as a criminal offense by an operator of a vehicle in response to an incident that occurs or escalates upon a roadway with the intent to endanger or intimidate an individual in another vehicle.

Additional penalties included

Any crime committed is permitted to be categorized as road rage with additional penalties.

In addition to a minimum $750 fine and possible prison time, police will have the option to seize and take possession of a vehicle without a warrant when there is probable cause to believe the vehicle was involved in a road rage event. The impound fee for any car, truck, truck tractor, bus or other vehicle will be $400.

A judge will have the option to suspend the offender’s driver’s license. Multiple offenses within 12 months would result in a mandatory revocation.

Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross, said the new law is not about punishing someone for showing their middle finger.

“We’re not talking about someone flipping someone off. We’re talking about a criminal offense, and you’re trying to endanger or intimidate another individual,” Weiler said during Senate floor discussion.

Rep. Paul Cutler, R-Centerville, added during a recent committee hearing that an individual could be charged with aggravated assault if their vehicle is used as a deadly weapon in a road rage incident.

A bigger problem

Not everyone at the statehouse was convinced adoption of the road rage rules was the best option.

Rep. Jordan Teuscher, R-South Jordan, told lawmakers that despite the fact he agrees road rage is a very serious problem, he doesn’t believe enhancing penalties will change driver behavior. He noted that in the moment, emotions and anger are difficult to control.

Cutler acknowledged that passing a law alone will not take away someone’s anger. He said it is important to educate the public about the issue.

“I think it’s important that we include a campaign to help people think about ahead of time, ‘Before I get in that car, before I drive, I’m going to make the decision not to be angry, or not to let someone else make me angry and do something I would regret, and ruin my life or the life of someone else,’” Cutler said.

As a result, Cutler included a provision to use fines related to offenses to help fund a road rage education campaign.

The new law takes effect July 1. The rule has a July 2028 sunset date. LL

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