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Are cellphone restrictions making a difference?

By Jed Boal | Posted - Aug. 11, 2014 at 10:33 p.m.

This archived news story is available only for your personal, non-commercial use. Information in the story may be outdated or superseded by additional information. Reading or replaying the story in its archived form does not constitute a republication of the story.

SALT LAKE CITY — Three months ago, Utah enacted new cellphone restrictions that essentially ban drivers from working phones with their hands.

That legislation changed the way many Utahns drive.

But out on the roads, Utah Highway Patrol troopers still see plenty of people who use their phones illegally.

"We are still seeing people texting behind the wheel," said UHP Lt. Jeff Nigbur.

But the honeymoon is over for drivers who just can't put down their phones while they drive. State troopers gave out warnings at first. But, if drivers get pulled over now while using their phone, they'll likely get a $100 ticket.

Out in traffic, it doesn't take long to spot a driver on the phone.

"I see a lot of people still using their phones and texting," said Kathryn Shelton, who added that she simply puts the phone away while driving.

"Even when it rings, I let it ring until I stop," she said.

Drivers can still talk on the phone and hold the phone. But if you compose a text, dial, or manipulate the phone with your hands, that became a primary offense May 13. That means law enforcement can pull you over for that alone.

We are still seeing people texting behind the wheel.

–Lt. Jeff Nigbur, UHP

Some motorists said they haven't noticed much of a change among drivers in traffic.

"Especially with GPS, people trying to get around and trying to put in addresses and that kind of stuff," said Cierra Maple, who also said she never thought it was a good idea to use the phone while driving.

"Whether it's up and visible where we can see it, or whether it's down in somebody's lap, we can still see people looking down and texting," Nigbur said.

He pointed out some drivers will ignore this law the way others break the speed limit, or drive drunk even though they know that's against the law.

"We even tell people that we're going to be enforcing it (DUIs) on specific weekends. Yet when we go out there, we still arrest people for DUI," he said.

But he does think the cellphone law is making a positive difference. After media attention in May and a month-long UHP educational blitz, Nigbur thinks most motorists are trying to change and improve their driving — and become safer on the road.

"It makes sense," Anissa Wall said of the law. "I thought it was a great idea."

Wall said she sees fewer drivers using their phones than she did several months ago. The new restrictions changed the way she drives. She said she used to regularly check her phone at stop lights.

"I have since stayed completely away from doing anything with my phone when I'm in the car driving," Wall said.

The first month the restrictions went into effect, UHP troopers handed out 150 warnings. They'll have updated numbers on citations during the past two months in the next couple of days.

The UHP continues to encourage motorists to use a hands-free set-up, like Bluetooth, or just reput the phone away when driving.

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Jed Boal


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