New Utah laws include ban on teen drivers using cellphones

Posted at 4:29 PM, Jul 01, 2013

SALT LAKE CITY — Several new laws take effect in Utah Monday, and they cover a range of issues.

One new law makes it a misdemeanor for 16 and 17-year-old drivers to talk on their cellphones and drive at the same time. Those caught doing so will face a $25 traffic ticket.

The law makes exceptions for teens using their phone to contact their parents or to reach authorities during an emergency. Tickets for this offense will not count toward points on a driver’s license.

A law that prohibits smoking in the car while children under the age of 16 are inside also took effect Monday. Police can’t pull someone over solely for smoking with a child in the car, but they can enforce the law if a driver has been pulled over for another offense.

Fines for this law will not be enforced until a year from now, and the fine is set at $45. Convertibles and other open-air vehicles are exempt from the law.

A third law creates more stretches of freeway where Utahns can drive 80 mph. Higher speed limits have been tested on Utah freeways since 2008. The 80 mph speed zones will expand to outlying stretches of Interstates 15, 80 and 84. The new zones will begin appearing in August.

Another new law will allow the state forester to temporarily restrict target shooting, smoking and other activities on lands with a high-risk of wildfire. The local county sheriff must agree to the restrictions.

Target shooters started only a small percentage of wildfires in Utah last year, but a large fire near Saratoga Springs that erupted last year cost more than $2 million to fight, and it forced thousands to evacuate their homes.