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Bill would ban teen cellphone use while driving

By Andrew Adams | Posted - Feb 12th, 2013 @ 5:00pm

SALT LAKE CITY — For the second year in a row, Utah lawmakers are eyeing legislation that would bar teen drivers from using their cellphones behind the wheel.

HB103 would restrict the practice for all people under the age of 18 — except in cases when teens call in medical emergencies, road hazards or criminal acts. Teens would also be allowed to call their parents or legal guardians while driving.

"If we're listening to our constituents, this bill should make it through," said the measure's sponsor, Rep. Lee Perry, R-Perry. "They need to learn how to drive before we start throwing distractions in front of them, and that's what I'm concerned with."

Perry, who is also a lieutenant for Utah Highway Patrol, said people have been telling him he should take his legislation further — by outlawing cellphone use for all drivers.

"It's surprising how many of my constituents are hitting me up and saying, 'You know what, we ought to have a ban across the board,' " Perry said. "I'm not willing to go down that road at this point. I think this is a good step to see how it works."

Bill highlights:
  • Prohibits a person younger than 18 years of age from using a wireless telephone to communicate with another person while operating a motor vehicle
  • Provides affirmative defenses to the wireless telephone prohibition
  • Specifies a penalty for violating the wireless telephone prohibition
  • Provides that a violation of the wireless telephone prohibition is not a reportable violation
  • Prohibits the Driver License Division from assessing points against a person's 21 driving record for being convicted of violating the wireless telephone prohibition

The measure makes a violation subject to a maximum of a $50 fine and restricts the Utah Driver License Division from assessing points against the driving records of violators.

AAA Utah spokesperson Rolayne Fairclough said her organization supports the measure.

She said other teen driving statutes, including the one that created a graduated driver's license, have resulted in a 52-percent decrease in teen fatal crashes in the state.

"It's a common sense bill," Fairclough said. "We know distractions are difficult for teens to handle.

Perry said a similar bill last year cleared the Senate but ran out of time in the House of Representatives. He was confident this year's version had the muster to pass the legislature.

He said the bill would likely surface in the House Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Committee for a hearing later this week or early next week.

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