Even though a study ranked Utah 34th in car dependency based on how many people commute by car and the number of annual miles driven, it has some of the worst drivers in the United States, according to QuoteWizard. The report shows that drivers in the Beehive State rank eighth in DUIs, fifth in accidents, and second in citations. The state, unfortunately, ranks first in speeding, placing ahead of North Dakota.
There are several things that a person could do that might cause a crash. The Utah Department of Public Safety (Utah DPS) found that tailgating (21%), not knowing the right-of-way (20%), and staying in the wrong lane (13%) are some of the most common factors in an accident. Speeding, however, is the most cited cause of a fatal crash.
The organization recorded 61,406 incidents in 2021, with 0.5%, or 332 of these collisions, being fatal. Salt Lake County, home of the state capital, Salt Lake City, has the highest crash rates. Teenage drivers account for over one-third of all crashes in the state.
To make roads safer, the Utah Department of Transportation has completed many projects. These include adding stop lights at intersections and building new passing lanes. Such measures are part of its strategic goal of meeting zero fatalities.
It's essential for people in car accidents who want money from those at fault to know their state's traffic rules. Knowing Utah's laws about insurance and traffic violations can help victims get paid for their injuries.
Utah Tailgating Laws
Utah Motor Vehicles Traffic Code Section 41-6a-711 states that drivers cannot tailgate. They should keep a safe distance based on traffic volume, vehicle speed, and roadway conditions. Motorists must also keep at least two seconds of space between their car and the vehicle in front of them. However, exceptions exist, such as during a funeral or heavy traffic.
Many crashes in the state happen because people drive too close to the car in front of them. In 2021, 21% of all crashes (around 12,000 accidents) were caused by tailgating. Insurify, an Internet company, also points out that Utah ranks seventh in the number of tailgating violations. The Beehive State has 112% more tailgating incidents than the national average.
To help prevent accidents, the Utah Safety Council has a helpful sheet on its website. The document advises, among other things, that drivers keep three seconds of space between them and the car in front.
Those cited for violating the state’s tailgating laws can face a fine of up to $750. They could also opt for compensatory service, currently calculated at $10 per hour. In addition, offenders can get 60 demerit points on their licenses. If they get more than 200 points, they could lose the right to drive for three months.
Utah Right-of-Way Laws
When drivers see a yield or stop sign at an intersection, they must give way to cars already there. They also need to let any vehicles coming from another road and getting close to them pass before moving. They must make way, too, for pedestrians traversing the street in a crosswalk next to a yield sign.
The law also states that when emergency vehicles — like ambulances or police cars — come with their lights and sirens on, drivers have to give way.
In cases where highway work vehicles or tow trucks are parked with their emergency lights on, drivers should drive slower and move to the next lane. If that's not possible, they should ensure plenty of space between them and the vehicle before passing.
State law considers a collision prima facie evidence of a driver’s failure to provide the right-of-way. However, these incidents are not automatically deemed negligent behavior.
Over 12,200, or 20%, of total accidents in Utah in 2021 involved a driver failing to give way. Violators of the state’s right-of-way laws can be fined up to around $120. In cases involving emergency vehicles, offenders need to show up for a four-hour defensive driving course. They will also have to deal with a 60-point demerit on their record. The demerit points can be reduced by participating in the defensive driving course. Those who did not attend face a 90-day license suspension.
Utah Left Lane Laws
Utahns are required to use the left lane when passing or overtaking another vehicle traveling in the same direction. After passing, the driver should return to the right side of the road or the right-hand lane as soon as it is safe. Drivers in the left lane should keep traffic moving. They can only slow down or stop if they need to exit on the left, avoid other merging cars, or follow a traffic signal telling them to use that lane.
In 2021, over 7,900 car accidents were caused by drivers not staying in the proper lanes. Lane violations rank third among the contributing factors in car accidents throughout Utah.
UDOT has installed signs on freeway overpasses across Interstate 15 to remind drivers about the state's rule for passing. Many people drive too much in the left lane, so these signs aim to stop them from being "left lane loafers." The Davis County Sheriff’s Office has also advised drivers not to call 911 if they see slow drivers in the left lane. Emergency calls should only be used to report dangerous drivers.
Violators of the state’s laws regarding lane restrictions could face fines between $260 and $750.
Utah Speeding Laws
Drivers must avoid driving too fast, especially when approaching turns, intersections, or crossings. Drivers must travel at a pace that considers the potential and actual hazards of roadways. Around 8%, or 4,900 crashes, in 2021 were speeding-related, according to data from the Utah DPS.
The following speed limits are considered lawful under the state’s traffic code:
State law also mentions in Section 41-6a-602 that posted speed limits may not go over 65 to 75 miles per hour on limited access highways or freeways.
Penalties for speeding law offenders
While speeding accounted for only 8% of accidents in 2021, it's the main reason people die on Utah roads. Of the 332 deaths recorded, over 100 involved drivers going faster than they should have been.
To help prevent accidents caused by speeding, traffic authorities use different strategies. One of these strategies is called SB 53 or Driver Speeding Amendments.
Starting in May 2022, if someone is caught driving over 105 miles per hour, they will be charged with reckless driving. This charge is associated with class B misdemeanors and comes with penalties for the convicted person. The law also imposes fines 150% more than the regular amount for motorists moving over 100 miles per hour.
In other cases, a person convicted of speeding must pay fines depending on their circumstances. These sanctions are as follows:
1-10 mph over the limit
11-15 mph over the limit
16-20 mph over the limit
21-25 mph over the limit
26-30 mph over the limit
31 mph or more over the limit
Similar to other traffic violations, a speeding charge means the offender will receive demerit points on their driving record. The number depends on how much they went over the speed limit. For example:
A person going up to 10 mph over the limit
35 demerit points
Traveling 11-20 mph over the limit
55 demerit points
Driving over 20 mph over the limit
75 demerit points
Utah Seat Belt Laws
According to the Motor Vehicle Safety Belt Usage Act, drivers need to wear seat belts when operating their vehicles. Interestingly, the law does not apply in several instances, which include:
Motor vehicles built before July 1, 1966
Individuals who have written proof from their doctors that they cannot wear seatbelts for medical reasons
Motor vehicles that under federal law are not required to be fitted with a safety belt system
For cases involving child passengers, Utah law allows those at least 57 inches tall or at least eight years old to wear a standard seat belt. In cases where a child restraint system is required, parents should use the product exactly as the instructions say.
A quarter of all vehicle-related fatalities in Utah in 2021 involved an unrestrained passenger. Another concerning statistic is that, based on national data, 60% of child car seats are set up incorrectly. To reduce seat belt-related accidents, the Utah DPS runs Child Passenger Safety Week. Parents can take their children to a nearby checkpoint, where a trained technician will make sure that the safety system is set up correctly.
The organization is also managing the Click It or Ticket campaign; violators of Utah’s seat belt law face a fine of $45.
Utah Drunk Driving Laws
Motorists in the state may not operate a vehicle if their blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is 0.05% or greater. They can be charged with driving under the influence (DUI) if their BAC level exceeds the state limit.
Actual physical control
Utah drivers might be charged with a DUI even if they were not driving while impaired. Courts in the Beehive State consider multiple factors to determine whether a Utahn is in actual physical control of their vehicle. These factors include whether the individual is touching the steering wheel, using an ignition key, sitting in the driver’s seat, or sleeping.
Sanctions for drunk drivers
First-time offenders could face up to six months in jail (two mandatory days), a maximum of $1,310 in fines, and a license suspension that lasts 120 days. Those who violated the state’s DUI laws for the second time might have to spend a maximum of 180 days in prison — which includes 10 mandatory days — up to $1,560 in fines. They could also get their licenses revoked for two years. Third-time offenders must deal with up to 5 years in jail, over $2,800 in fines, and 24 months of license suspension.
Utah Minimum Auto Insurance Requirements
State law requires drivers to purchase insurance, with the minimum coverage limit set at 25/65/15. Motorists must obtain a policy that covers the following:
$25,000 for the injury or death of a person
$65,000 for the injury or death of two or more people
$15,000 for injury or damage to a victim’s property.
Utahns also need to obtain personal injury protection (PIP) insurance at a minimum of $3,000. The policy covers a wide range of costs, from medical expenses to funeral expenses.
According to the United Services Automobile Association, drivers typically pay an average of $130 per month for auto insurance in Utah.
Utah Is a “No-Fault” State for Car Insurance Claims
In Utah, there is a rule called "no-fault" regarding car accidents. Drivers use their PIP insurance to pay for medical bills and missed wages, regardless of who caused the accident.
The current PIP minimum insurance coverage in Utah is $3,000. Car accident victims can only pursue legal action for their injuries if they have sustained permanent disfigurement, disability, impairment, or dismemberment from the vehicle collision. They may also sue if their medical expenses go over $3,000.
Utah Is a “Modified Comparative Negligence” State for Car Accident Lawsuits
According to Section 78B-5-818 of the Utah Judicial Code, a plaintiff can recover accident-related damages as long as their fault does not exceed that of the defendant. The responsibility of car crash victims must not exceed 49%. If they meet this criterion, they can receive an award. However, the final amount will decrease based on their share of the liability.
For example, if a car accident victim’s damages are deemed worth $100,000, but they are found to be 25% responsible for the crash, they will receive $75,000 as their final award.
Utah Statute of Limitations for Car Accidents
A car crash victim may file a lawsuit against liable parties within four years from the date of the accident. The four-year rule applies to various victims, including vehicle operators, passengers, and pedestrians. In cases where someone dies, their family or representatives have two years to make a legal claim, as provided by state law. The “clock” starts on the date of the victim’s death.
There are other situations where the statute of limitations varies. For example, an uninjured individual whose car sustained property damage has three years to press legal action. Two years are provided in instances where drivers sustain injuries due to a state employee’s negligence.
Average Settlement for Utah Car Accidents
Car accident victims with moderate injuries receive $33,308 on average in settlements. Those that have incurred minor injuries might obtain about $6,700 from liable parties. Meanwhile, motorists that have sustained severe injuries could recover over $400,000 in damages.
Many factors might affect the final amount a crash victim can get from the court. These include:
The severity of the victim’s injuries. A defendant’s attorney could argue that the plaintiff’s injuries are not accident-related. However, if the crash resulted in permanent medical conditions, the victim can recover greater damages.
The amount of punitive damages. In cases where punitive damages are awarded, the first $50,000 goes to the accident victim. Any amount in excess is divided equally between the state and the injured party.
The defendant is uninsured or underinsured. Carrying underinsured or uninsured motorist insurance might help motorists manage accident-related costs. These policies are not required, nonetheless.
Legal Resources for Utah Car Accident Victims
Utah Driver Handbook 2022-2023
Written in collaboration between the Driver License Division of the Utah DPS and the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators, the handbook contains multiple sections that educate readers on a range of topics, from right-of-way rules to defensive driving techniques. It also has a section where motorists can find information about new driving laws.
Utah Department of Motor Vehicles
Utahns can find educational information about disabled placards, temporary permits, personalized plates, and impounded vehicles on the website.
Utah Insurance Department
The organization operates with a mission of protecting “the financial security of people and businesses in Utah.” It maintains a dedicated Fraud Division that has filed claims against car salesmen, doctors, insurance agents, and lawyers. Utahns can contact their toll-free number (844) 373-0233 or e-mail email@example.com to report instances of insurance fraud.
Utah Legal Services
Since its inception in 1976, the organization has been providing free legal advice to low-income individuals and families across the state. It is a grantee of the Legal Services Corporation.
Utah Department of Public Safety
Over 1,500 Utah DPS employees carry out the organization’s mission of licensing and regulating drivers across the state, as well as promoting public safety. Its website contains multiple pages of educational content that guides Utahns about various topics. These include the state’s demerit point system and the process of applying for the invisible condition identification symbol.
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