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Road rage is rising on Utah roads, data shows, prompting possible enhanced penalties

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Road rage is rising on Utah roads, data shows, prompting possible enhanced penalties

Feb 26, 2024 | 8:06 am ET
By Kyle Dunphey
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Road rage is rising on Utah roads, data shows, prompting possible enhanced penalties
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I-15 near Point of the Mountain in Lehi is pictured on Sunday, Feb. 4, 2024. (Photo by Spenser Heaps for Utah News Dispatch)

Road rage is increasing on Utah’s roads — emergency dispatch reports that mention “road rage” have jumped from 565 in 2020, to 747 in 2023, according to the Utah Department of Public Safety. 

But officials lack a legal definition of what constitutes “road rage,” which means the state has a difficult time tracking when it happens. 

That would change under a bill sponsored by Rep. Paul Cutler, R-Centerville, which seeks to statutorily define road rage while enhancing the criminal penalties for perpetrators that meet that definition. 

HB30, or Road Rage Amendments, passed out of a Senate Judiciary, Law Enforcement, and Criminal Justice Committee on Thursday. It passed a House committee earlier this month, and received a 51-17 vote on the House floor. It will require two votes from the Senate before it heads to the governor’s desk. 

“This is a serious problem. People are dying. Loved ones are being taken away. And we need to communicate and give our law enforcement professionals the tools they need to protect us on our roadways,” Cutler said, speaking on the House floor. 

Fatalities related to aggressive driving have spiked, going from eight in 2019 to 20 in 2020, according to DPS. 

Cutler’s bill would likely come into effect for those situations. As Rep. Candace Pierucci, R-Herriman, put it, “This isn’t for flipping people off, or dropping big words at them. This is for really egregious situations.” 

HB30 defines road rage as a criminal action, like brandishing a weapon or reckless driving, “with the intent to endanger or intimidate an individual in another vehicle.”

The bill would increase penalties and fines for the most egregious instances of road rage, moving a class B misdemeanor to a class A misdemeanor; and a class A misdemeanor to a 3rd degree felony. Anyone convicted twice or more offenses in one year would have their driver’s license revoked. A police officer could also seize the perpetrator’s vehicle.

The enhancements could apply to a passenger in the vehicle if they are throwing objects or brandishing a weapon. 

With a statutory definition, DPS will be better equipped to track instances of road rage — currently, the department compiles reports from dispatchers that include the phrases “road rage” or “aggressive driving” for data. 

The bill would also put revenue generated from the increased fines toward a road rage awareness and prevention campaign.