New cell phone law is confusing, critics say

Posted at 5:40 PM, May 12, 2014
and last updated 2014-05-12 19:40:50-04

SALT LAKE CITY -- A new cell phone law goes into effect Tuesday – but there’s still confusion for some not only about what the restrictions and exceptions are but how it will be enforced.

“When you have something as complex as this and difficult to enforce you're going to have problems,” said Clayton Simms, Utah Criminal Defense Attorney.

The new law aims to save lives by making it illegal to do a lot of things on a phone while driving, such as dialing a number or picking a song.

But critics point out the loopholes are large.

Motorists are allowed to answer the phone, talk on it, use it for GPS or in an emergency.

“If the public is confused then the police are confused and then the judges will be confused how to enforce the law,” Simms said.

Simms said if a Utah Highway Patrol trooper pulls someone over just because they see an illuminated light it in the car, it could cause problems.

“The fear is it will allow police to stop whoever they want -- ‘oh I thought you were using your phone…’” Simms said.

But state troopers say the new law is practical and to the point.

“Any manipulation is a violation so if we see a person and their phone is up to their face and their thumb is going crazy over the front of the phone, it's obvious they are doing something,” said Danny Fuhr, with UHP.

Troopers say keeping the roads safe is their main goal.

“Our intent is to not hammer the public -- the highway patrol, 50 percent of what we do is writing warnings for violations, we're really big into education,” Fuhr said.

This week troopers plan to do a blitz in Davis, Salt Lake and Utah counties to educate people about the new law, but it won't be long before they start giving out the $100 tickets.