Bill would roll back part of Utah’s ban on using cell phone while driving

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SALT LAKE CITY -- A bill that would roll back part of Utah's ban on using a cell phone while driving is stalled in a legislative committee.

On a narrow 7-6 vote, lawmakers in the House Transportation Committee held House Bill 63, which would change Utah's ban on talking while driving while modifications were considered.

HB63, sponsored by Rep. Jake Anderegg, R-Lehi, would allow drivers to use their handheld or hands-free devices to make and receive calls. It would also allow people to use their phones in a hands-free manner -- including using voice commands to send texts, play music or navigate.

Under a bill that passed last year and became law, "manipulation" of a handheld device (like a cell phone) is currently illegal in Utah. Anderegg said texting, instant messaging, watching videos or using the Internet while driving would remain illegal.

In an interview with FOX 13 on Thursday, Anderegg complained that the existing law makes Utah too much like a "nanny state" and his constituents wanted it scaled back.

"I think that some of what we did was good. Some of what we did was way too far," he said. "I'm saying let's be realistic and pull back a little bit."

Anderegg complained that currently, people are holding phones in their laps while driving -- making things more dangerous. His bill is getting opposition from the Utah Highway Patrol, which testified against it on Thursday. The UHP raised concerns about distracted driving and claimed that since the law went into effect last year, it had issued 1,086 warnings or citations.

The Utah Department of Transportation and the American Automobile Association both said it had concerns, but was "studying" HB63.

The bill will return to committee next week.

9 comments

  • Lindsey

    This is dumb. There is no such thing as “pulling back” when it comes to someone’s safety on the roads. Innocent people are being injured and killed by texting drivers and people manipulating their phones, including my parents. My dad was killed by a texting driver and my mom severely injured. If people were responsible in the first place these bills wouldn’t even have to exist but we all think we are above the law…So more safety and restraints need to be issued!! More citations and warnings need to issued and people need to step back and think about how manipulating a phone in the car for a split second could kill someone in the blink of an eye.

  • Brad

    The new laws on phone use should be tightened. This week alone I have seen 2 bad accidents and I saw the driver making the mistake on the phone a second before the were almost killed. Should we go easier on DUI? Its the same thing except there are more people on the phone than people drinking and driving.

  • David Whittington

    I was completely stopped at a red light in SLC and some clown in a pickup truck drove right past me a 40 mph and right THROUGH the red light (as if it weren’t even there) while he was yakking on his cell phone. If a car had been legally coming through the intersection at that instant someone would have DIED. Cell phones are incredibly distracting for ANY driver. Drivers should still be banned from ANY cell phone usage while moving down the highway. If a driver MUST use a cell phone, simply pull off the road and stop and use the cell phone.

    • Andy

      I agree that cell phones should not be used in town where there are lights, or stop signs, but I work graveyard and drive over an hour each way straight interstate. I have been falling asleep and drifted off the road falling asleep quite a few times. When my daughter calls to talk and make sure I stay awake it really does keep me awake to talk to someone.

  • David Thelen

    FOOD FOR THOUGHT
    Texting and driving problem can be solved with a new device. Whenever the car is moving, it will block text message service (Just Google it.)
    Younger drivers, especially teens are too tempted to text and drive. To prevent this problem, organizers could market this device to parents of young drivers, so they (the parents) can rest easier. It would save lives.
    A new partnership with car insurance companies, health providers, cell phone carriers, and schools would better market this device. All these organizations would educate and promote this device by way of pamphlets placed in the bills of car insurance, health insurance, and cell phone companies. These pamphlets could be part of their child’s homework. Family physicians could also hand out pamphlets as well.
    Perhaps some companies like the car and health insurance organizations could subsidize some of the costs to buy and install these devices in automobiles. From an actuarial stand point, if for every extra dollar these companies pay for these devices, saves more than one dollar by the accidents it prevents, then it would make perfect sense to implement.
    As for people who are caught texting and driving the first time, the punishment will be that this device be installed in their automobile at the driver’s expense.
    Car repair shops would be the ones to stock up these devices. As part of getting your cars’ emissions test, these automobile repair shops would be the ones to install these devices.
    This program just may save more lives.

  • Kaye Nelson

    I wonder if Jacob Anderegg met or saw Leslee Henson at the capitol last year. It was her husband Dave who was killed on March 4, 2013 by a texting driver. Leslee was critically injured, receiving 5,000 stitches and staples in her head. Her family has been devastated by this accident. They helped get SB 253 on the books and it surely has saved lives.

    He should put himself in the Henson’s shoes. Would he be so willing to change the law that was pushed through last year if someone in his family had been hurt or killed by a texting driver? We should not be softening the law but making it tougher!

    Putting phones completely away while driving is the only sensible thing to do. Life is precious. A text just isn’t worth it.

  • Leslee Henson

    STOP! Lets not even talk about rolling back. Lets push forward and get Utah “Hands Free!” .
    My husband lost his life because someone picked up their phone while driving. How many more have to be lost before we wake up and put a stop to the horrible epidemic of cell phone use while driving. Lets get SB63 banned!

  • Jack Torrence

    Every time I see someone driving terribly, not paying attention etc. they are texting while driving. It’s a horrible idea to roll back any part of this law.

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