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Senate passes cellphone ban for teen drivers

By Nkoyo Iyamba | Posted - Feb. 6, 2012 at 5:03 p.m.


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SALT LAKE CITY -- A bill targeting teenage drivers and cellphone use passed a second Senate reading 19 to 9 Monday.

The bill, sponsored by Senate Minority Leader Ross Romero (D) puts restrictions on how and when cellphones can be used by teenage drivers while operating a vehicle. The bill, according to Romero, is supp osed to extend Utah's Graduated license program, which gives teens under 18 driving privileges incrementally. It would prohibit teens from talking on any phone device while driving, unless in an emergency or they are talking to parents. New drivers are currently limited by passenger restrictions, supervision and nighttime driving rules.

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Statistics showing cellphone use while driving gives backing to the bill, particularly those relevant to newer drivers. In 2011, state statistics show 50 percent of high school students admit talking on their cellphone while driving. In 2010, 15- to 19-year-old drivers had the highest rate of crashes, injuries, and property damage of all driving age groups, and out of nearly 21,000 crashes that year, 17 percent of drivers were using cellphones at the time.

But the bill has anecdotal support as well. Jacom Clarkson, 17, is a student at the Salt Lake School for the Performing Arts, and he feels additional safety could be worth the restriction.

"I've lost a few friends, a few acquaintances, both in Utah and outside due to cellphone related driving," he said. "It's one of those things kids always are against because they feel like it's restricting freedom but at the cost of a life, it's one of those things that's a hefty trade."

The bill must pass the House before it can go to the Governor for approval.

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