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Senators Debate Distracted Driving

Lawmakers are considering moving Utah closer to being a hands-free state when it comes to drivers using cell phones.

It’s already against the law to text while driving in Utah. A bill in the Senate would require motorists in motion to use Bluetooth or other voice-activated features. Sen. Steve Urquhart, R-St. George, calls it “hands-free lite.”

“We clarify: you can punch a button,” he said in the Senate floor debate. “In other words, if someone calls you, you can punch a button to activate it. And when you finish talking, you can punch a button to turn it off. But you can’t manipulate the keys.”

House Bill 63 would make it illegal for drivers to hold their phones to their ears while in motion.

“I, personally, am not ready to go down this road,” said Senator Deidre Henderson, R- Spanish Fork.

Senators debated a technology that’s so commonplace yet potentially hazardous. Senator Luz Escamilla, D-Salt Lake City, struggled to tell about a distracted driving accident that left her 9-year-old daughter severely injured.

“Suddenly, someone else’s choices and decisions could have potentially, at that point, had a permanent impact on my daughter’s life,” she said.

Senators put the bill on hold Wednesday for a possible amendment. For it to become law, they must act on it before the General Session ends Thursday night.

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