Increased awareness about the harmful consequences of distracted driving has led Utah State Legislature to take action to curb drivers’ cellphone. Last week, A new cell phone law was passed, extending the ban on texting to include sending emails, reading or checking any social media, or using any application that diverts the driver’s eyes from the road.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in 2012, 3,328 people were killed and an estimated additional 421,000 injured in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers. Additionally, a recent USA Today Article claimed that the percentage of US drivers who surf the web on their cellphones has increased recently. This new law seeks to directly affect that trend and reduce the number of injuries and fatalities due to distracted driving.
New Features: What is prohibited?
Utah’s Traffic Code will feature the following new restrictions on May 13th:
- Sending a text: applies to any “handheld wireless communication devices” and includes text messages of all kinds
- Emailing receiving, reading, sending etc.
- Sending any form of data: using any social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc.) while driving will be strictly prohibited.
- Reading text, viewing images: scanning news sites, etc.
- Using any other application: includes using any other and forthcoming apps which require the use of hands (as opposed to voice-activated apps)
As the law comes into effect, any cell phone usage (other than the noted exceptions, listed below) while driving becomes a “primary offense.” This means a law enforcement officer may pull over any driver simply when he/she suspects cell phone use, without having any additional reason for the traffic stop. The law will apply to drivers of all ages.
What is still allowed?
There are a few exceptions to the new cellphone law, mostly relating to emergency situations in which cell phones may still be used.
- Making or receiving a phone call: Handheld devices may still be used to make and receive calls normally. Dialing manually (by hand) however, is prohibited. Voice dialing is still permitted.
- Reporting on a safety hazard, criminal activity: or helping law enforcement
- Medical Emergencies. Special circumstances, including roadside assistance are still permitted.
- Hands-free: Hands-free devices are still allowed by law for making and receiving phone calls, as are using “electronically integrated phones” in vehicles.
For the first few weeks of the new law, law enforcement’s primary goal will be to inform the public and give warnings about the new cell phone legislation. However, after the initial phase, police officers will charge violators with a Class C misdemeanor and a fine of up to $100 just for seeing a cell phone in use. If cell phone usage while driving causes injury to another, a Class B Misdemeanor will be charged.
At Christensen & Hymas, we advocate for increased safety measures to help ensure the well-being of all Utahns on the road. Unfortunately, even with increased awareness and stricter laws, distracted driving can still occur. If you or someone you know has been injured in a car accident, you may have many questions about your insurance claim. Call Christensen & Hymas today at 801-506-0800 to learn how can you be compensated for your losses. Our experienced personal injury attorneys take pride in personally taking care of your legal process, so you can focus on healing and continuing on with your life.