Drivers continue to text despite new law restricting phone manipulation, UHP officials say

Posted at 9:40 PM, Dec 01, 2014

ST GEORGE, Utah - It appears old habits are hard to break when it comes to texting while driving.

New numbers from the Utah Highway Patrol show the number of people stopped for distracted driving has increased dramatically since the law expanded earlier this year.

For the period of May to October, troopers pulled over 692 drivers, that’s a 400 percent increase when compared to the same time period last year.

“The whole grace period of, ‘we’re just going to give them warnings,’ has far exceeded,” said UHP Sgt. Todd Royce. “It’s easier to enforce. It’s easier to see people that are manipulating their cell phone now, and it’s easier for troopers and law enforcement officers to take enforcement on that.”

Locally, it was a little over a year ago the city of St. George put out the Heads Up, Thumbs Up campaign to educate people about distracted driving.

St. George police Sgt. Sam Despain said he believes, overall, people are getting the message, but they still see violations.

“I was working a special enforcement for seat belt use, and it was amazing, I was stopping almost as many for distracted driving as I was for seat belts,” Despain said.

Drivers say they believe while the awareness is greater, the mentality stays the same -- that they can do it safely.

“I believe that people think, ‘oh, nothing bad will ever happen to me, I’m paying attention, I’m smart enough,’” said St. George resident Cathy Gardner.

Those caught tapping their phones could face a $100 fine. It goes up if you cause an accident.