Tighter restrictions on distracted driving go into effect at midnight

ST. GEORGE – Tighter restrictions on distracted driving go into effect across the state at midnight Tuesday.

The anti-text/distracted driver sign on Dixie Drive. The first of many new sign that appear on St. George streets, St. George, Utah, July 25, 2013 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

The new restrictions passed by the Utah Legislature earlier this year, are meant to make an otherwise hard-to-enforce law, more enforceable.

“The texting while driving law is hard to enforce,” St. George Police Chief Marlon Stratton previously told St. George News. Thus far the law has primarily focused on texting, and officers actually have to see a driver texting, not simply manipulating buttons on a phone.

As of midnight, that will change.

Once the clock strikes midnight, drivers may not do the following while their vehicles are in motion:

  • Compose, read, or send a text message, email, or instant message
  • Enter a phone number
  • Access or surf the Internet
  • View or record images and video
  • Manipulate applications on the phone or wireless handheld device

However, drivers may do the following while their vehicles are in motion:

  • Answer calls and talk
  • Use hands free devices for phones
  • Use a GPS or navigation application on a phone if needed
  • Report emergencies, road hazards, criminal activity

Violations of the law can lead to a class-C misdemeanor and a $100 fine. If a person is injured due to distracted driving, the driver could face a class-B misdemeanor, which entails a possible $1,000 fine and up to six months in jail.

See text of the the law and the new restrictions here:

The tighter restrictions come in the wake of a public awareness campaign started by the Henson family of St. George. Last year, David and Leslee Henson were involved in an accident triggered by an alleged distracted driver who was texting. The accident killed David Henson and left Lelsee Henson severely injured. As Leslee Henson recovered, she and her family launched a statewide campaign called “Stop the text, Stop the wrecks.”

The campaign led to many anti-texting signs being placed in St. George and the surrounding area. They also contacted state Sen. Steve Urquhart, R-St. George, about tightening distracted driver laws in the state. Urquhart, along with state Rep. Don Ispon, R-St. George, sponsored Senate Bill 253 in the state Legislature where it ultimately passed.

The City of St. George and the St. George Police Department also created the “Heads Up, Thumbs Up,” campaign to continue to bring awareness to the risk of distracted driving and also highlighted the new restrictions about to become law.

As for whether or not local law enforcement will change how it handles distracted drivers, St. George Police Sgt. Sam Despain said: “It’ll be business as usual.”

If you get caught breaking the law, you’ll be cited, he said.

Though the new law does have exceptions that allow someone to have a phone in hand while driving, Stratton recommended drivers keep the phone out of their hands entirely.

“You shouldn’t have a cell phone in your hand and manipulating it while driving,” Stratton said. “There’s not a phone call, not a text message that is important enough … to endanger not only yourself but all the other people out there.”

Ed. Note: Information regarding potential penalties has been corrected.

Related

Email: mkessler@stgnews.com

Twitter: @MoriKessler

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2014, all rights reserved.

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16 Comments

  • highlatte May 12, 2014 at 8:40 pm

    I am generally not in favor of most laws regulating our lives, however, this is a good law. Keep your hands off yours phones while driving, the dangers are unacceptable.

    • Real Life May 12, 2014 at 10:27 pm

      Amen to that. You see it everywhere, and it’s not just young people.

  • FREEDOM May 13, 2014 at 6:16 am

    This ought to make running a small service business just about impossible. Sounds like most people will be playing an unending game of phone tag! I cant wait until it is illegal to speak to the person next to you in a car! Steve, you are a definately a progressive!…next step socialism! If it were put to a vote the populace wouldnt have it! Way to represent the people Steve Urqhart!

    • BSMETER May 13, 2014 at 10:32 am

      So making a buck is more important than someones life? Interesting.

    • Chris May 13, 2014 at 10:59 am

      Of course, no one ran a small business before cell phones existed. Nice spelling of “definitely.”

    • My Evil Twin May 13, 2014 at 11:39 am

      Wait until you are involved in a crash due to texting. Then we will see what you have to say.

      • Applejack May 13, 2014 at 2:13 pm

        He’ll say he was using the GPS on his phone, not texting.

    • Applejack May 13, 2014 at 3:36 pm

      That’s why Voice Mail exists. If you get a call while you are driving, let the call go to Voice Mail and answer it when you are safely parked on the side of the road and out of the way of other drivers. 1-2 Minutes is not going to make a difference and people will understand when you answer with something like “I’m sorry I couldn’t answer the phone right away because I was driving and had to find a safe place to pull over so i could call you back”. That’s if they even ask why their call went to Voice Mail in the first place. I doubt they will ask though.

  • St George couple May 13, 2014 at 6:46 am

    One driver, you need two hands on steering wheel and your eyes on the road for safe driving. If you really need to text, just pull over to a safe place (like a parking spot), then you can text. And PLEASE use directional signal to pull over or change lanes!

  • JOSH DALTON May 13, 2014 at 9:16 am

    HOOOOORAAAAAY!! We all just one to lottery! This is the first step to the world becoming a much better place! Now if we could just get rid of cell phones all together…

    • JOSH DALTON May 13, 2014 at 9:17 am

      “just won the lottery”

  • Andrew White May 13, 2014 at 10:26 am

    I wish the law went a step further to being completely, 100% hands-free. I ride a scooter every day. At least once a week, a driver will push me out of my lane or cut me off. People need to focus on driving.

    • My Evil Twin May 13, 2014 at 11:38 am

      I was coming back from Hurricane one day a few months ago. Traffic had slowed to an absolute crawl, in the 55 MPH zone, with traffic moving a bit faster in the right lane, than the left lane. Along about the turnoff to Sand Hollow, I discovered why.
      There in the left lane, riding erratically on a scooter, was this huge guy. (Huge guy, small scooter, think two cheeks and two wheels going down the road.) He was texting while riding, and totally oblivious to everything around him. IDIOT!

    • JOSH DALTON May 13, 2014 at 1:21 pm

      Next time do what I did…I busted the rear window out of a car with my helmet.

  • Paul May 13, 2014 at 6:12 pm

    So are the police included in this cause I see a lot of that. Just saying

  • mike May 14, 2014 at 1:23 am

    Revenue agents (police) are exempt of this code (not law). Wake up people it clearly states you cant record while moving. That’s a direct violation of the 1st amendment. If you can’t record LEO then they can’t be held accountable for their misconduct. We need to storm city hall and demand that this be removed or LEO be held to same standards. Badges (shouldn’t) but actually grant extra rights because we the lazy allow it

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