The Utah State Senate has passed a bill which would ban teenagers ages 16 and 17 from talking on their cell phones while driving. The bill passed 19-9 on Tuesday and will now move on to the house. Utah tried to pass similar laws in past years, which passed in the Senate but not the House. In 2009, Utah joined 34 others states and banned texting while driving. Here in Utah, however, they treat cell phone use as part of the problem of distracted driving. Thus, it is only an offense if the driver is also committing some other type of violation.
So the debate continues as to just how much to restrict cell phone use in cars. In 9 states, D.C. and the Virgin Islands, drivers are prohibited from using handheld cell phones. There are no states banning hands-free devices, as it is hard to prove that it is more distracting than actually having people in the car with the driver.
It is a proven fact that texting and driving is incredibly dangerous. Even cell phone companies are putting ads out to help prevent drivers from doing this. Below is an ad AT&T put out in 2010:
However, how dangerous is the act of holding a phone to your ear and talking? The University of Utah did a study in 2006, claiming that talking on the phone while driving was just as bad as drunk driving.
“We found that people are as impaired when they drive and talk on a cell phone as they are when they drive intoxicated at the legal blood-alcohol limit,” says study co-author Frank Drews, an assistant professor of psychology.
Utah is trying to prevent accidents by banning young drivers from talking on their cell phones and having them focus on the road. It could happen that in the future we are all forced to put the phone down, use a hand-free device, or simply just focus on the stretch of pavement in front of us.