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Are Utah drivers ready for a ban on cellphones?

By Richard Piatt | Posted - Dec. 13, 2011 at 10:24 p.m.



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SALT LAKE CITY — Driving and texting, emailing, even just talking on the phone is too dangerous to be allowed, according to a new recommendation from the National Transportation Safety Board.

Accidents caused by cellphone-distracted drivers are sparking the call for a complete ban on all automobile cellphone use, including hands-free conversations. That's stricter than any law any state has passed so far.

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But look around you on the road, and it's easy to spot lots of people on cellphones. People have gotten used to having a cellphone to manage both their personal and work lives.

"It would be very tough for people who live on their cellphones to completely take away all forms of communication while driving," said Shelby Cravens, a Utah driver.

"I do work at a job where people will call me on my cellphone; and if that kind of law came into effect, I would say I can't, and I won't," said Chris Bennion, also a Utah Driver.

Even text messaging behind the wheel, which Utah law bans, is a tough law to enforce. Yet, Frank Drews, a psychologist at the University of Utah, says research shows it's clearly justified.

"While you're text messaging, you're driving blind. You don't see what is happening," Drews said. A decade worth of studies, he says, show the same for all cell phone use too, backing up what the NTSB is recommending.

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"There's clear scientific evidence that a number of these technologies have a clear impact on driving performance," Drews said.

But the only pending legislation at Utah's Capitol will address a loophole in the texting law: it permits drivers to type a message as long as it's not sent.

Sen. Lyle Hillyard says a ban on phone conversations probably won't fly. "I don't think you'll get that passed," he said, "but I think as more and more people see the value of such legislation, then I think more support will be easier to garner."

KSL News spoke with several businesses, including courier services who say they'd be affected if cellphone conversations were banned by law. But many companies do have formal policies that don't allow talking or texting behind the wheel.

Email: rpiatt@ksl.com

Richard Piatt

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