For several years now, Utah has been at the forefront of distracted driving legislation. Not only is it among the first states to ban texting and driving; it attaches criminal penalties to those phone-related accidents which prove fatal or injurious. While these measures are still rather exceptional, they are hardly out of place: 19% of distracted driving accidents in Utah are linked to cell phone use. (This 19% comprised over 6,000 accidents in 2007.)
Several attempts to turn the tide of distracted driving accidents statewide have failed to garner enough support to make a difference. However, a recent bill has recently passed which could impact Utah’s driving culture. Its rise through the ranks is outlined below:
- The first person to introduce such legislation was Ross Romero of Salt Lake City, Utah Senate Minority Leader. The bill, SB113, would be a compromise between a laissez-faire approach to the issue and the desired ban on cell phones across all age groups that had been persistently unpopular. The bill met with opposition from those who saw it as heavy-handed and was amended several times before it made cell phone use while driving a secondary offense.
- On March 7 of this year, the topic was raised once more with the vote on HB103, which would levy a $25 fine against minors driving with cell phones. The bill was proposed by a Highway Patrol officer named Lee Perry, who compared the cell phone ban to the restricted driving hours and passenger limits imposed upon drivers with their learner’s permits.
In the House, much of the bill’s main opposition was the opposite of what it had been in the Senate in earlier years: it was too limited. Representatives worried that law enforcement officials would be unable to tell a driver’s age at a glance and would end up pulling over drivers who were of legal age. (Senator Hillyard from Logan pointed out that even legal adults could benefit from a lecture.) While some believed the bill too draconian, others would have preferred something more all-inclusive: “The problem isn’t teenagers,” Senator Thatcher pointed out. “It’s every driver.”
- This time, HB103 has passed. As of May 14 of this year, teenagers using their cell phones for any purpose are legally culpable. One goal of the bill is to get new drivers in the habit of driving without their phones before they are adults (which might appease those who see cell phone regulation as excessive). As before, distracted driving accidents will be assessed in light of possible phone use.
Thanks to legislative support, those seeking compensation for distracted driving accident injuries have a legal foundation for their claims. However, tempers may rise with the amount of money involved. If you need help putting a difficult episode to rest, distracted driving accident attorneys Christiensen & Hymas can help you find satisfaction with less of a hassle. For more information, call (801) 506-0800.
Image courtesy of J. Oscarson