The plan, given final approval by the governor April 1, adds a variety of electronic communication behaviors to the texting & driving already prohibited by state law. These include accessing the Internet; creating or viewing video; entering data data into a handheld wireless communications devices.
Motorists are barred from “dialing” phone numbers, but they remain free to talk on cell phones. A Senate amendment allowed drivers to view and use GPS applications.
Urquhart (pictured), a Republican, calls the current Utah texting & driving law “ambiguous.”
The Senate approved SB 253 on March 10; the House followed March 13. Final approval came in the Senate in the early hours of March 14.
The fine for first offenders tops out at $100 (class C misdemeanor). More severe penalties will await those who cause serious bodily injury or have prior convictions for electronic distracted driving.
Gov. Gary Herbert in 2013 signed into law legislation that bars young drivers from using cell phones.
The bill was inspired, in part, by the death of David Henson and severe injuries to his wife Leslee. The St. George couple were walking a year ago when hit by a 50-year-old woman who allegedly was texting and speeding. The driver has been charged with automotive homicide.
A local hospital’s video about the Henson tragedy follows: