Utah Speeding Laws
In addition to absolute speed limits (see below), Utah's "basic speed law" provides that a person may not operate a vehicle at a speed greater than is reasonable and prudent under the existing conditions, giving regard to the actual and potential hazards then existing. (Utah Code Ann. § 41-6-46(1) (2017).)
Penalty for Exceeding Speed Limit
A first-time speeding violator may be:
- fined not more than $750
- sentenced to jail time of not more than 90 days, and
- the violator’s license may be suspended not more than one year.
Penalty for Reckless Driving
Reckless driving is defined as:
- driving in a “willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property,” or
- committing three separate moving violations within a continuous three miles of driving.
A first violation carries up to 90 days in jail, a maximum $1,000 in fines, and the possibility of license suspension of up to three months. (Utah Code Ann. §§ 41-6a-528, 76-3-204(2), 76-3-301(1)(d) (2017).)
(Read more about Utah's reckless driving laws and penalties.)
Utah's "presumed" speed limits are:
- 55 miles per hour, except as noted, on highways or streets
- 25 miles per hour in an urban district, and
- 20 miles per hour in a "reduced speed school zone."
Utah Speeding Laws
Utah is in the minority of states that use a “prima facie” or “presumed” speed limit law. In states that use this system for all or some of their roads, it’s legal to drive over the posted limit as long as you are driving safely. For example, if you are driving 50 miles per hour in a 40-mile-per-hour zone, you are “presumed” to be speeding. But if it is 6 a.m. on a clear, dry morning with no other cars on a wide, straight road, and you can convince the judge that you were driving safely given those conditions, you should be acquitted. That’s because you present facts that “rebut the presumption” that by going over the limit you were driving at an unsafe speed.
In states such as Utah, if you’re accused of violating a presumed speed limit, you may be able to make two possible defenses:
- claim you weren’t exceeding the posted speed limit, or
- claim that, even if you were exceeding the posted limit, you were driving safely given the specific road, weather, and traffic conditions at the time.
Occasionally an officer will incorrectly measure your speed. But even when that happens, it can be hard to convince a judge to accept your version of the story. In short, if you were ticketed in a “presumed” speed area, it is most sensible to rely on the argument that you may have been driving slightly over the posted speed limit, but it was safe to do so considering all the highway conditions at the time. For example, if you know you were driving 33 to 35 miles per hour in a 25-mile-per-hour zone, and the officer can probably prove it, you should concentrate your defense on showing that you were driving at a reasonable speed, considering the conditions at the time you were stopped.
Note that in Utah you can be ticketed for driving at an unsafe speed, even if that speed does not violate the posted limit—for example, driving exactly at the maximum mph posted limit on the freeway amidst slower and heavy traffic, in a dense fog, or in a driving rainstorm or blizzard.
Utah uses a point system to keep track of driver's traffic violations. Accumulating too many points can lead to license suspension.
(Read more about Utah's traffic violation point system, including the point values for different moving violations.)