New Distracted Driving Law Makes it Illegal to Dial While Driving

May 13, 2014

Several new laws go into effect today, including one that could change people’s driving habits. Utah Highway Patrol Superintendent Danny Fuhr explains the new cell phone law this way.

“In order for us to pull someone over we’re going to see their phone in their hand," Fuhr says. "We’re going to see their attention drawn towards that phone and some type of manipulation of that phone, meaning they’re pushing multiple characters into that phone.”

In other words, you can no longer send a text message, dial a phone number, or read an email while driving. Rep. Don Ipson, R-St. George, was a co-sponsor of the law. He says he sees the law as an important step in keeping the roads safe.

“The technology is such today that there’s no reason for us to be manipulating our phones," Ipson says. "The safety concerns that that creates are unnecessary. Voice recognition and the tools there are with phones today, I think it just catches us up with technology.”

But not everybody agrees with the need for such a law, including the more than 30 legislators that voted against the bill. Connor Boyack is the president of the political advocacy group known as the Libertas Institute. He says while he thinks safety is important, the law would be better if, instead of restricting drivers, it simply made the punishment harsher for people who actually cause damage.

“There could potentially be millions of people driving and calling on their phones without harming a single person," he says. "Those people should not necessarily be restricted in their behavior that hasn’t harmed anyone in the name of preventing something.”

While the law does add new restrictions, it does NOT prohibit someone from answering a phone call, talking on the phone, or looking at it for GPS navigation.