A report by Billy Hesterman of the Daily Herald, discusses Utah’s new cell phone law.
The new law that went into effect Tuesday will add tighter restrictions on what a person can and cannot do with their cell phone while driving their car.
While it was already illegal in Utah to send a text message while driving, the new law will update Utah’s code to also restrict practices such as playing games, checking a Facebook status, and reading or writing an email on a cell phone while driving.
Basically, if drivers are doing anything other than using the device for a phone, they might be cited for using their cell phone illegally. The only exception is if the phone is being used for directions via GPS.
“They can use it for navigating, but people cannot read, write or send communications, dial a number, surf the Internet, view or record a video or enter data,” said Rep. Don Ipson, R-St. George, the house floor sponsor of the legislation when it was up for final debate in March.
The new law is a primary offense, and violators could be charged a $100 fine if caught using their phone unlawfully.
Sgt. Todd Royce with the Utah Highway Patrol explained the new law will require many Utahns to change their cell phone behavior. He said UHP is planning to emphasize education at first when pulling over drivers in the coming weeks who are using their phone illegally, meaning more warnings will be written than actual tickets.
Royce also noted the law clearly states an individual’s car has to be in motion to be violating the law.
“It will be a habit that pretty much all of society will have to change,” Royce said.
Another law going into effect Tuesday that will have an impact on Utah drivers will allow the state’s Department of Transportation to increase speeds on all of the state’s roads as long as a safety study says it is safe to do so.
State lawmakers overwhelmingly supported the ironically titled H.B. 80 during the legislative session, which gives UDOT full authority throughout the state to increase speed limits. Previously, the department had to come to the legislature with specific areas in mind for where the speed should be increased to 80 miles per hour, but this year the legislature gave UDOT full authority on the matter.
While that may result in higher speeds in some rural areas of the state, UDOT is not going to post 80-mph limits on Interstate 15 in the highly populated areas of the Wasatch Front anytime soon.
Other laws that start Tuesday include a law that will charge people with a felony who attempt to distribute “intimate images” of another with the intention to cause harm to that person. The law was nicknamed the “revenge porn” bill during the session.