Get Off The Cell Phone, Hot Rod! This Is Utah

Filed under: Health & Safety: Babies

How'd you like to look in your rear view mirror and see her driving the car behind you? Credit: Corbis

Hey, boys and girls, there's nothing LOL about texting while you're driving.

In fact, using a cell phone at all when you're driving doesn't make you cool. In fact, it could make you dead.

That's the message your friends in the Utah Legislature have for all you hipsters out there with your rock 'n' roll and your cell phones.

Soon, it may well be against the law for all Utah teens to use a cell phone while operating a motor vehicle. Adults can still text and yap all they want, but they're adults. They can handle themselves -- at least in Utah.Six states (California, Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, Oregon and Washington) and the District of Columbia ban everyone from talking on handheld cell phones while driving. In 19 states and the District of Columbia, it's illegal to text while you're driving.

In Utah, however, the proposed ban only affects teens.

The Utah Senate gave its final approval to the bill Wednesday and sent it over to the House for consideration. Nay votes came from Senate President Michael Waddoups and Majority Leader Scott Jenkins, both Republicans.

The Deseret News in Salt Lake City reports the bill's sponsor, state Sen. Ross Romero (D-Salt Lake), says statistics show the law could reduce the number and severity of car accidents.

"This is making sure our youngest drivers are paying attention," he said during debate on the bill.

Romero's bill bans teens younger than 18 from using cell phones behind the wheel but provides exemptions for emergencies. Violators would only be cited, without accruing points toward losing their licenses.

Routine violations would be punished by a fine similar to the fine for speeding. [In Utah, such fines vary.]

If the teen is involved in an accident while on his or her phone, he or she could be found guilty of a Class C misdemeanor [punishable up to 90 days in jail and a maximum fine of $750].

Despite the Senate's support, the Deseret News reports Romero held the bill for 24 hours to make changes to give it a better shot in the House. He tells the paper he is considering making the violation a secondary, rather than primary, offense.

State Sen. Kevin Van Tassell, R-Vernal, read an e-mail during a Transportation and Public Utilities Committee hearing from someone worried the bill would give cops an excuse to hassle kids.

The Salt Lake City Tribune reports Romero responded that the risk is outweighed by safety concerns.

The New England Journal of Medicine in 1997 reported that people using cell phones while driving are as dangerous as drunk drivers.

University of Toronto researchers found cell phone users four to five times more likely to get into traffic accidents as those not talking and driving.

"Telephones that allowed the hands to be free did not appear to be safer than handheld telephones," their report in the journal states. "This may indicate that the main factor in most motor vehicle collisions is a driver's limitations in attention rather than dexterity."

Related: More Families Stay in Touch Via Cell Phones, Texts

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.