New distracted driving law goes into effect today

The Utah Highway Patrol is hoping a new law helps reduce traffic crashes and deaths caused by distracted driving. Photo courtesy of Town of Danville, Calif.

Starting today, Utah drivers who are caught manipulating their phones while on the road could face a $100 fine. Utah Highway Patrol Lieutenant Lee Perry, who is also a State Representative for District 29 in the Utah House of Representatives, said the new law takes the ban on texting and driving one step further.

On KVNU’s For the People program Friday, Perry said the new law prevents behind-the-wheel drivers from tapping out numbers or other information on the devices.

“This is just to say, look, we’re taking a more and more proactive approach here to try and catch these people,” Lt. Perry said, “before they drift out of a lane and hit somebody, or run a red light or run a stop sign.

“So if we see them messing around with the phone, looking down, reaching over for it–sometimes people will lift both hands from the steering wheel as they are driving down the road and be texting–so as we see those things as law enforcement officers we’ll now be able to stop them just for that alone.”

Perry said it prevents texters who are driving from skirting penalties by saying they were doing something else such as checking Facebook, or dialing a number.

Perry said the law came about after an incident in St. George where two people were walking and a woman driver looking for a phone number hit the couple, killing one of them and seriously injuring the other. Because the woman was not technically texting, lawmakers wanted to update the existing laws to cover other such events.

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