PROVO, Utah — Just after midnight on a February morning, J.J. Avila decided to punch it.
“No cars on the freeway,” Avila explained. “I had recently bought the car. So, I was kind of, like, ‘Oh, maybe I should see how fast this thing can go.'"
A Utah Highway Patrol trooper on Interstate 15 in Lindon pulled Avila over, according to court records.
“The officer clocked me at 110 miles per hour," Avila said.
Avila, in an interview in Provo with FOX 13 News, acknowledged it wasn’t his first time driving more than 100 mph.
Since the start of 2019, troopers have stopped more than 21,000 motorists traveling 100 mph or more. It’s enough people to fill Real Salt Lake’s stadium or the LDS Conference Center.
The numbers are climbing, with 100 mph citations on pace to exceed the 2021 totals, according to UHP data obtained by FOX 13 News.
The data also shows who and where the drivers are.
The heaviest concentrations of super speeders are on stretches of I-15 near Scipio and Beaver. Both are spots where mountain passes descend as motorists drive south.
The data also shows dense concentrations of 100 mph speeders in the state’s population center – the freeways up and down and across the Wasatch Front. Yet the problem isn’t confined to wide thoroughfares. Troopers are pulling over excessive speeders on two-lane roads from Bear Lake down to the Four Corners.
Map below shows where drivers speeding at over 100 miles per hour are most caught in Utah
“The fastest car that I’ve ever pulled over was going 148 mph,” said UHP Cpl. Geoffrey Parker as he patrolled Interstate 215 on the west side of Salt Lake County, “and it was just right here actually, actually right here on this next exit.
“A black Porsche.
“Going that fast, it falls under reckless exhibition of speed. So, we impounded his car.”
So far this year, according to UHP data, about 70 percent of the 100 mph speeders are male. The median age of all the super speeders is 26.
“They’re running late or they didn’t realize they were going so fast,” Parker said.
“’I’ve got to use the restroom,’ or ‘I’m heading to the airport, going to miss my flight.’”
Harvey Miller, a geography professor at Ohio State University who studies traffic, said solutions to reducing speeding include narrowing lanes so drivers must pay more attention and drive more carefully.
“We're basically designing our highways, and many of our roads, even within cities, to be like racetracks, to basically be safe at high speeds. So, what do people do? They just push the speeding envelope," said Miller.
The data obtained by FOX 13 News does not include super speeders found by local police, such as a case last month in Millcreek. Unified Police arrested a motorcyclist that officers say drove through a school zone traveling more than 100 mph.
UHP can’t be sure how many crashes result from excessive speeding. They don’t all receive a detailed examination.
“Our vehicles are not made to withstand damage from crashes that are at those extreme speeds,” said UHP Lt. Jalaine Hawkes.
“So, when you get into those high speeds, you have the inability to be able to react in the timeframe to be able to prevent crashes many times.”
Parker said he sometimes arrives at crash scenes where the car was traveling at high speeds and finds the engine block and front half of the car separated from the rest of the vehicle.
“At that point,” Parker said, “how much good does your seatbelt do you?”
The Utah Legislature targeted super speeders this year by increasing the penalties. Every mile per hour over 100 can bring extra fines. Once you reach 105 mph – it’s a reckless driving charge.
“Making penalties bigger, honestly, would be the best way to slow them down,” Avila said.
Availa received his ticket before the new penalties went into effect. He still paid a price.
His license was suspended for a month. He also paid $340 in fines. The fines would have been higher, but Avila, 18, completed the driving course called “Alive at 25.”
He said he hasn’t been pulled over since that morning in February.
“I’ve been pretty good at staying at the speed limit,” Avila said.