Teen driver cell phone restriction passes to final reading in Utah Senate

Published: Monday, Feb. 6 2012 5:54 p.m. MST

SALT LAKE CITY — Parents want the law to reflect what they're telling their teen drivers about cellphone use while driving — it's illegal.

Sen. Ross Romero, D-Salt Lake, said he is attempting to offer his help to that end by sponsoring a bill that would expressly prohibit teens under 18 from using a "wireless telephone while operating a motor vehicle." Violators would be subject to a $50 fine for the violation but no points would be taken off a driver's license.

Romero said young drivers have a higher rate of accidents than the general population and that 17.5 percent of the time, distracted driving is a contributing factor.

"This is a significant public safety issue. It has been narrowly crafted to address that," Romero said of SB128 during debate and preliminary vote on the bill in the Senate Monday.

Some legislators argued against the bill, saying it was too difficult for police to enforce and that distracted driving by drivers of any age was a public safety threat.

Sen. John Valentine, R-Orem, said he has, over time, understood the wisdom of graduated driver's license laws but he opposes SB128.

"I cannot vote for his bill. This bill is vague. It is unenforceable," he said.

Over the objections of a number of Senate Republicans, the bill advanced 19-9 for a final vote.

Marjorie Cortez

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