A new distracted driving law that toughens Utah’s current ban on texting while driving went into effect earlier this week. While Utah’s drivers might not be too excited about the new restrictions, the Utah Highway Patrol (UHP) is welcoming the new law and hopes it will reduce distracted driving in the state. According to KUTV.com, state troopers report that distracted driving resulted in 11 traffic fatalities in 2013 alone.
Utah’s current distracted driving law only bans drivers from texting while driving or while at a stoplight. The new law bans all manual operation of a phone or electronic device while driving or at a stoplight, from dialing a phone number to reading or writing an email to updating your Facebook status and even changing the song on an MP3 player. Drivers can still talk on the phone without Bluetooth, make emergency calls, and use their GPS, but they must dial phone numbers and enter addresses using voice command.
As Rep. Don Ipson, the bill’s House floor sponsor, told the Daily Herald, “They can use [their phone] for navigating, but people cannot read, write, or send communications, dial a number, surf the Internet, view or record a video, or enter data.”
Ipson further reports that the law was created to help law enforcement officials better enforce the state’s distracted driving law. When the ban was limited to just texting while driving, drivers could easily say that they were checking an email or making a phone call, which were legal activities.
Drivers who violate the expanded distracted driving law will face a $100 fine and a Class C misdemeanor charge. The fine and charge increase to $1,000 and a Class B misdemeanor if drivers cause a crash or injure another person. However, UHP will be focusing more on educating than ticketing distracted drivers in the coming weeks, as UHP Sgt. Todd Royce told the Daily Herald. That means police officers and troopers will be issuing warnings instead of tickets during the next few weeks to ensure that the public understands the new law and the dangers of distracted driving.