Loss of loved ones, concerns over ‘nanny state’ at center of distracted driving debate in Utah

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SALT LAKE CITY -- A law that helps police nab drivers texting behind the wheel could now be scaled back under a new proposal.

Rep. Jake Anderegg, R-District 6, believes the distracted driving restrictions passed last year went too far. He's proposing a bill to loosen them, and it narrowly passed a House Transportation Committee meeting Friday on a 6-5 vote.

"I'm arguing, according to the stats, we have had more fatalities since this law was put into place, not fewer," Anderegg said. "I'm not convinced that there's a direct correlation between this specific piece of legislation and keeping us safe."

Under current law, “manipulation” of a handheld device, such as a cellphone, is illegal. However, Anderegg wants to make an amendment that would allow drivers to dial and receive phone calls, as well as use a GPS.

"We are kind of trying to be the nanny state," Anderegg said. "Stepping in and saying, 'You can do this, you can't do that, and this is going to help and this is not going to help.' I'm not convinced that that's actually helping."

But it has helped bring peace of mind to at least one driver.

"My daughter, Margay Schee, was killed on September 23, 2008," said Elissa Schee, who weighed in on the bill at the meeting.

Her daughter was 13 years old when she was killed in a school bus crash in Florida, which Schee said was caused by a distracted driver.

"She was in the aisle of the bus and was unable to get out and the bus, and the truck caught on fire and she was killed in that fire," Schee said. "For that representative to say that people's livelihoods depend on their cell phones, that's really, really hard for me to hear because my daughter will never have a livelihood. Her rights burned up with her on that bus."

Of the few who commented on the proposal, only one was in favor Friday.

"If anybody is talking on the phone and really doesn't see a bus or car in front of them, that is a problem that I don't think any law can really stop," said local resident, George Chapman.

Ultimately, lawmakers decided the bill should be debated before the entire legislative body. It now moves on to the full House floor.

8 comments

  • Let my child die because her mother can't use her phone while driving and this mother will join her daughter when I punish her for her vote killing my child

    The mother is insane. Let me dumb it down for her. If my wife is running late to pick up my child and decides to camp me to do it and a cop sees her and pulls her over and she gets a ticket and my daughter is killed while waiting for us to pick her up u will break her daughters mothers nose and make her pay for her role in the law responsible for my child’s death and I will tell her to shut up about her daughter since the children of my child’s killers won’t matter to me

  • Brad

    Rep. Jake Anderegg, R-District 6, Your wrong! I see it day in and day out were people make mistakes while driving and useing the cell phone! If you can’t do your job without being on the phone all day you need to take time management class.

  • Andy

    I work graveyard and drive straight (no curves) interstate. I’ve drifted off the road falling asleep quite a few times. My daughter has called to make sure I’m staying awake. I don’t fall asleep talking to her.

  • Joel Beach

    My family has British roots. I deeply resent the fact that the nanny state of Utah will not let me celebrate my culture and exercise my personal right to drive my car (which I paid for) on the Left side of the street. What about my rights!?!?!? These state lawmakers need to stop taking orders from the fat cats in Washington, D.C. And let the people of Utah, like me, drive on the left side of the street if I want to. My freedom, my world, my rights.

  • bob

    Those of you who believe you have a right to play with your phone while driving: Does that right apply to airline pilots too? If not, why?

    Discuss.

  • Liz Eagan

    First, Anderegg, logic eludes us all. More fatalities since the law? across the board there were more fatalities in all areas. So since the law, alcohol deaths increased this past year as well – let’s loosen that law too, right? The misinformation is that the state separated distracted drivers from sub categories. In reality – distracted drivers (which includes texting drivers), in 2014 were 62 – far more than alcohol. Yet receive only a slap on the hand. The law for distracted drivers should be the same as for alcohol. They get to go to court, have a therapist for executive functioning skills, pay huge fines and only get to drive cars that have a chip implanted such that if they even touch their cell, the car starts honking and blinking – the same. It should be on their drivers’ license that they have an addiction (research has shown that texting/phones – is an addiction) and have a case manager. Their phone records should be checked by their case manager daily. MADD should go to Mother’s against Distracted Drivers. The system is broken – illogical

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