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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Most of the bills that Utah legislators passed during their legislative session this year go into effect Tuesday. Under Utah's constitution, new laws go into effect 60 days after the legislative session ends, unless lawmakers specify another date in the bill. The 350-plus new laws going into effect Tuesday will change Utah's official state tree from a blue spruce to a quaking aspen and establish standards for Breathalyzers and similar blood-alcohol devices if they're installed in Utah bars.
The new legislation also establishes new programs, such as a hunting permit for 11 and 12 year olds and an initiative where private grants will help cover the cost of some preschool programs. There are also new restrictions on using drones, cellphones and the state list of registered voters.
Here's a look at five laws taking effect Tuesday:
SALT LAKE CITY — A new law restricting cellphone use while driving went into effect Tuesday, and the Utah Highway Patrol wants to make sure drivers understand it.
Troopers patrolled I-15 along the Wasatch Front and in Washington County with a sharp eye for drivers manually working their phones. Troopers spotted the offenders from an unmarked truck, and troopers in marked cars pulled the drivers over. In a little more than an hour, troopers were able to spot 14 violations.
Texting while driving is against the law in Utah, and the Legislature last year banned drivers under 18 years old from talking on cellphones while driving.
Until now, Utah's texting law while driving was hard to enforce because it wasn't illegal to dial a phone number or do something other than texting while driving. The new law makes it easier for law enforcement to enforce the law.
"If we go down the road and we see a person with their phone and the thumb is going over the top of their phone, entering data into it, then we know we have a violation," UHP Col. Daniel Fuhr said.
Under the new law, it is unlawful to send, write or read text messages, instant messages or email; dial a phone number; access the Internet; view or record a video; and type in data on a smartphone or other mobile device.
Drivers can still talk on the phone, use voice commands, and view GPS or navigation coordinates.
"Now that it's law, we can stop people for it, we can talk to them about it, and let them know why it is so distracting, and hopefully change some behavior," Utah Highway Patrol Cpl. Justin Cheney said.
The law is all about saving lives, said one of the sponsors of SB253.
"Driving distracted causes us to kill people, and it creates a loss of life and a loss of property," said Rep. Don Ipson, R-St. George, the House sponsor of the bill.
Cellphones aren't the only distraction for drivers.
"We see people eating. We see people putting makeup on, reading books," Ipson said. "We just need to be more conscious about the things we do when we are driving."
Distracted driving accounted for 19 fatalities in 2012, with cellphone usage the No. 1 cause for distraction, according to data provided by the Utah Highway Safety Office. In 2013, 17 fatalities were recorded in Utah, with eight due to cellphone usage and texting, according to Gary Mower, a research analyst with the safety office.
For a few days, law enforcement will take an education approach. After that, it's a $100 ticket.
"This whole effort is to save more lives on Utah roadways, prevent injuries and prevent crashes," Fuhr said.
Contributing: Viviane Vo-Duc
Starting Tuesday, law enforcement in Utah has new restrictions on the use of unmanned aerial vehicles. With the exception of some emergencies, police will generally not be able to use the aircraft— commonly known as drones —without first obtaining a warrant. At least nine states passed restrictions on drones last year and Utah is one of four states that took similar action in 2014. Utah legislators have said they anticipate that in the years ahead, additional restrictions on the technology will be needed, including limits on drone use by the general public. The aircraft often resemble remote-controlled planes and helicopters and can range from micro, insect-sized devices to small jetliners.
2. DRIVING AND DIALING
Anyone caught fumbling with his or her phone while on Utah roads could face a $100 fine. The new law prohibits drivers from tapping out numbers or other information on the devices. But holding them to talk or using them to navigate with a GPS program is still allowed. The idea is to help police enforce a current state ban on driving and texting, says Sen. Stephen Urquhart, R-St. George, who sponsored the legislation. He says the earlier law comes up short because it doesn't bar drivers from using their phones in similarly distracting ways, like checking Facebook or changing a playlist. If a driver injures someone by breaking the new law, the penalty could climb to a $1,000 fine and up to six months in jail.
3. REVENGE PORNOGRAPHY
People who try to humiliate former romantic partners by sharing sexually explicit images of them could face criminal charges under a new law to curb so-called "revenge pornography." Under the new law, such sharing could bring misdemeanor charges on the first offense. Any repeat conviction would be a felony. Rep. Marie Poulson, D-Salt Lake City, brought the legislation, saying the practice typically targets women and can cause some to lose their jobs. Utah is among five states that have passed similar laws, and more than 20 other states have considered doing so this year.
4. VOTER LIST
Utah legislators cited concerns about citizen privacy when they passed a law restricting the state's voter registration list. The list can be purchased from the state elections office for $1,050. Voter names, addresses and party affiliations will still be publically available under the new restrictions, but only certain groups, such as political parties and health care providers, will be able to access voter birth dates. The new law restricts how those groups use that information and violations could net them criminal or civil penalties. It also allows victims of domestic violence and others a pathway to have their entire voting record made private.
5. CARBON MONOXIDE MONITORS
After more than 40 students and faculty were sickened by carbon monoxide at a Utah elementary school last year, several legislators said they were surprised monitors for the gas were not required in K-12 schools. A new law requires schools to install the devices in mechanical rooms near furnaces or water heaters and kitchen areas in buildings where gas appliances are installed. According to budget estimates, the devices will cost about $800 per school. The new law makes Utah one of a handful of states requiring the detectors in schools.
Video Contributor: Haley Smith
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