***Note: this bill has been substituted, this analysis may no longer be valid***
It seems Utah’s cell phone laws will be on the table once again for lawmakers, as Representative Jacob Andregg (Republican – Lehi) proposes HB 63 – Distracted Driver Amendments.
In May of 2014, the public seemed taken by surprise as more restrictive laws on cell phone went into effect. Specifically, the law expanded the ban on sending or reading text messages while driving to also include surfing the web, choosing songs on a music player, and even dialing any non-emergency number – even if the driver is using hands-free technology. Many drivers were pulled over, completely unaware that their lawmakers had altered the rules.
Currently, the law only allows you to use your phone to answer a call, use maps, or make emergency calls. Under Anderegg’s legislation, Utahns would be able to use a phone in a vehicle if they have hands-free technology, such as a bluetooth headset you wear on your ear.
This legislation would revert the law to a version similar to what was in place prior to the 2014 legislative session – a questionable move considering that, in 2011, the CDC noted that nearly one in five accidents are caused by distracted driving, that the rate of accidents caused by distracted driving is increasing, and that nearly seven out of ten drivers admit to talking on a cell phone recently. It is clear that if we as drivers chose not to manipulate our phones while driving, the roads would be safer.
More concerning is that the US Department of Transportation reports that using a headset to talk on a phone while driving is not substantially safer than hand-held usage, making the move from a near ban to a more open usage a step backward.
Though Anderegg is acknowledging the reality that many drivers have simply reverted to placing their phone out of sight while the illegal activity is taking place (taking eyes even further off the road), it is not an adequate excuse to revert the law back to its prior state. Once a driver is distracted, it does not matter much if a phone is outside the gaze of law enforcement.
The practical reality is that society needs to decide that the issue is severe enough to justify changing behavior, and one way this can happen is through legal means. Anderegg is slowing this discussion down by stepping the law back. This is understandable as it is a more politically popular route to take, but it does little to address the problem.
To contact Representative Anderegg, Click Here or call 801-901-3580
|Impact on Average Utahn||0-1-2-3-4-5|
|Need for Legislation||0-1-2-3-4-5|
Editors Note: This evaluation was modified from a prior version after receiving additional information. UPC would like to think the Libertas Institute for the clarification.