SALT LAKE CITY — A bill that would have prohibited teens from talking on cell phones while driving did not pass the Utah Legislature.
Amended five times, Sen. Ross Romero's SB113, originally would have made it a class C misdemeanor to chat while driving. Later amendments made it a "secondary offense," which prohibited police from pulling chatty teens over unless there was another traffic violation.
In other amendments, legislators made exemptions for teens making 911 calls or talking to their parents.
There were two "conference committees," or small groups of legislators from both political parties and both the House and Senate, who tried to negotiate their differences. The first conference committee was successful, but the second couldn't find consensus.
"They didn't offer any amendments," said Romero, D-Salt Lake City, of legislators who opposed the bill. "They only said they didn't believe the bill should move forward at this time."
Senate President Michael Waddoups R-Taylorsville, was prepared to assign Romero and two other senators to a third conference committee, but House Speaker Dave Clark, R-Santa Clara, said Thursday evening there was no time.
"I think, two strikes, I'm considering it done for the day," Clark said.4 comments on this story
Rep. Kenneth Sumsion, R-American Fork, was on the second conference committee. He disagrees with research from the University of Utah that found driving while distracted on a cell phone is as dangerous as driving drunk.
He referred to the state's "Utah Crash Summary 2008," which found that there were 32 alcohol-related fatalities and only four cell phone-related fatalities.
While he agreed teenage drivers may be more dangerous while chatting on the phone, he said the issue is one parents should decide at home.
"I'd probably like to see more high school emphasis in driver's ed," he said. "Maybe public service (announcement) types of things."
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