by Senator Ross Romero
Senate Minority Whip
There is an ongoing debate about restricting cell phone use while driving and efforts in the past for a total ban. This year in the Judiciary, Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Interim Committee, we have heard testimony from young drivers who support a complete ban because their friends were injured or killed in accidents involving cell phone use.
Based upon this testimony, I decided to sponsor Senate Bill 113, Wireless Telephone Use Restriction for Minors in Vehicles, which restricts cell phone use by persons younger than 18 years of age. This bill highlights the need for young drivers to acquire experience behind the wheel before introducing distractions to the mix.
The bill provides for an infraction if a person under 18 uses a cell phone while driving. If a person violates the law and is involved in a motor vehicle accident, the penalty is a class C misdemeanor. Thirteen states have passed the same provision restricting young drivers.
Below are statistics for Utah Teenage Distracted Driving Crashes for 2006 (new information for 2007 will be available shortly). Source: University of Utah Applied Cognition Lab
In crashes where cell phone and other electronic devices were the distraction:
1 person was killed
3 people had incapacitating injuries
27 people had non-incapacitating injuries
48 people had possible injuries
42 people had ER visits and 2 people had hospital visits
$240,000 was charged by the ER or hospital
It bothers me when I read the obituaries and see young people dying of suicide, accidents, etc. I chose age 18 as the cutoff because at that age, most young people have completed high school, are more experienced behind the wheel, and have demonstrated a higher level of maturity.
While I know some are for a complete cell phone ban while driving, this bill is meant to safeguard the younger drivers in our community.
Finally, Representative Phil Riesen is carrying this bill in the Utah House of Representatives.