BRIGHAM CITY -- After the Legislature gave it the nod earlier this year, the Utah Department of Transportation has changed the speed limit in the northern stretch of Interstate 15 to 80 mph.
The Utah Highway Patrol reports one of the biggest reasons for the change is because travelers were already breaking the original 75 mph limit.
"They were gutsy enough to go that fast prior," said UHP Sgt. Shane Nebeker. "I think what you're going to find, though, is we're going to be less tolerant in our enforcement efforts of excessive speed. Eighty miles per hour is the speed limit, and we're going to enforce it that way."
Workers replaced signs along I-15 early Wednesday morning, starting at the Brigham City exits to the Idaho border. Officials are hoping the change will improve traffic flow.
"Due to some engineering studies and speed studies, we just found that traffic flows generally fairly well at those speeds in this part of the state," Nebeker said. "It's been tried in other parts of the state, and we've seen pretty good results from that."
But, Nebeker said, the 80 mph limit will be met with greater concern for drivers' safety.
"We expect that they're going to be wearing their safety belts. As we see the speeds increase, the potential for injuries also increases," he said. "Last year, about 70 percent of the fatalities were related to folks who weren't wearing their safety belts."
Throughout the state, various stretches of road have also been set to 80 mph, including portions of Southern Utah, south of Nephi, the Fillmore area and on Interstate 80 toward Wendover.
"Through the parts of the state where we've seen the increases, they are on longer, more open stretches of road. They're less residential," Nebeker said. "We have a lot less cross-traffic. And you have a lot more visibility in those areas that allows for the increased speed."
Nebeker reminds commuters that because they can now drive at higher speeds between Brigham City and the Idaho border, they will need to be more aware on the roads.
"We expect that you're going to keep distractions to a minimum. Obviously, no texting, keep your cellphones and some of the other distractions in your car to a minimum and concentrate on driving at these speeds," he said. "We want you to get there safely, and now, quickly. But we expect some responsibility on the parts of the driver, as well."
Contact reporter Kelly Keiter at 801-625-4218 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at @kkeiter.