Semitrailer trucks and buses are not the only high-profile vehicles on the highways these days. There's a new "monster" on the road, with jacked-up pickup trucks and SUVs becoming an increasing safety concern.
Not only are frames of the newer trucks and SUVs generally built higher off the ground, but some pickups along the Wasatch Front and nationally are being raised above the legal limits — to almost resemble monster trucks.
They may look cool, but vehicles raised too high off the ground lose some of their braking and are more prone to roll, officials say. They also pose a greater hazard — especially to lower-clearance cars.
It's not that these jacked-up trucks are necessarily getting in more accidents, it is simply that when they do, the accident is more severe.
Thus, these vehicles are a danger to themselves and others.
Besides compromising some control over their vehicle by being raised too high, the bumper of these vehicles will thus usually be above the bumper of any vehicle they may crash into.
This means it bypasses the safety of a bumper and so the crash will put the other vehicle more likely inside the cab of the vehicle it crashes into.
A report by the nonprofit American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators states that other motorists can be at severe risk in a collision because a modified truck can ride over the top of and even crush a car.
(Now in fairness, sometimes this extra height is actually a plus. For example, my wife crashed into the rear of the jacked-up vehicle on I-15 a few years ago. She luckily wasn't going extremely fast and her bumper went underneath the raised SUVs bumper and thus sustained far less damage to the front of her car than if she had struck the bumper outright.)
Utah law states that motor vehicles with a gross weight of less than 4,500 pounds can have the lowest part of their frames 24 inches off the ground. For vehicles 4,500 to 7,499 pounds the allowed height is 26 inches, and it is 28 inches for vehicles 7,500 pounds or greater.
Violators face a class C misdemeanor, a fine of up to $750.
Look at some jacked up vehicles on Utah's roads and you can clearly single out some that are clearly in violation.
So, the smaller the vehicle, the less it can be legally jacked up.
How do they get such illegal vehicles inspected and registered?
1. They get their jacked up vehicle inspected when it has regular, low tires on it. After the inspection, they put oversize tires on their vehicle.
2. They convince a friend at an inspection station to pass them anyway.
The Utah Highway Patrol is supposed to enforce this law, but if they do (and that looks to be rarely), they simply send it back to an inspection station.
I'd like to warn all illegal jacked-up vehicle owners that if they get into an accident, they will be an easy target to sue, whether the accident is your fault or not.
Is that worth your extra cool look, to be sued for all you own, let alone the harm you may cause the occupants of a vehicle that crashes into you.
(The photo above is of a jacked-up vehicle I spotted in Farmington recently. Based on its small size, I believe it is almost certainly raised higher than the legal limits. Also note that it lacks a front license plate, another violation of state law.)