Utah in the Fast Lane: An Analysis of Driving and Traffic Safety

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Are Utahns good drivers? That question is much debated. Many people think that they themselves are good drivers, but that other drivers are terrible.

This report gestures towards the range of subjective assessments, but then turns to a more serious examination of Utah traffic laws that involve restraints and restrictions affecting safety on the roads. Specifically, the report discusses laws regarding seatbelts, booster seats, motorcycle helmets, teen driving, impaired driving, and distracted driving. Within the category of distracted driving, talking on a cellphone receives special emphasis. This focus reflects extensive scientific research showing the limitations of attention, and the way that increased cognitive workload, as required by cellphone conversations, impairs driving performance.


  • The Utah Legislature made the state’s seatbelt law enforceable as a primary offense; the law will take effect in May 2015. (See page 3)
  • Modifying Utah’s current helmet law to cover all riders would likely reduce fatalities. (See page 6)
  • Utah’s current restrictions on teen driving do not include the following standards as recommended by national safety experts:
    • Nighttime driving restriction from as early as 9pm and ending at 5am;
    • Passenger limitation for one year;
    • Minimum 16 years of age for learners’ permits;
    • Restricted licenses until 18. (See page 7)
  • Utah’s drunk driving rates continue to decrease; this may be credited to Utah’s strict laws and policies. (See page 9)
  • Studies show that hands-free calls while driving cause an impairment equivalent to handheld calls. (See page 12)
  • Research shows that driving while talking on a cellphone is as hazardous as driving with a blood alcohol level of 0.08%, the legal threshold for drunk driving. (See page 12)


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