Authors: Melissa Taylor and Mads Jensen, Capital West News Service
A Lehi representative to the Utah Legislature wants to reverse part of a law enacted last year that makes it illegal to use a cell phone while driving a car.
Rep. Jacob Anderegg, R-Lehi, has filed HB63, a bill that would loosen some of the restrictions imposed by the 2014 Legislature. Lawmakers banned texting while driving, but the new law also prevents drivers from making or receiving phone calls as well as using GPS navigation applications. If passed, the changes would allow Utah drivers to make and receive phone calls and use GPS navigation systems.
“I’m currently going through the process of revising last year’s bill,” Anderegg told The Universe. “People were being pulled over for merely glancing down at their phones, and we all agree that we went too far to ensure that Utah never has an accident again. Many changes are to come.”
Connor Boyack, the president of Libertas Institute, which supports the bill, said he believes the current ban has led to an increase in dangerous driving habits, as drivers attempt to text out of sight in order to avoid getting caught by law enforcement officers.
“Outright prohibiting texting or dialing while calling has simply led people to do it in their laps instead of in their line of sight while driving, making a bad situation worse,” Boyack said.
The current law does not prohibit voice-activated interactions with mobile devices while driving. However, according to studies released by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety and the University of Utah, these systems, which are meant to allow drivers to stay focused on the road, require a level of concentration that is considered to be a significant distraction. Also according to the the U.S. Department of Transportation, using headsets is not much safer than handheld usage.
Some oppose reversing the bill.
“It seems as if we’re taking a step back,” student Addison Crook said. “I understand that citizens were frustrated by being pulled over and fined for simply sending a short text, typing an address into a GPS, or making a phone call, but isn’t our safety so much more important? I’m worried that the new revisions will result in increased carelessness, distracted drivers and more accidents.”