Bill would roll back part of Utah’s ban on using cell phone while driving

Posted at 4:47 PM, Jan 29, 2015

SALT LAKE CITY -- A bill that would roll back part of Utah's ban on using a cell phone while driving is stalled in a legislative committee.

On a narrow 7-6 vote, lawmakers in the House Transportation Committee held House Bill 63, which would change Utah's ban on talking while driving while modifications were considered.

HB63, sponsored by Rep. Jake Anderegg, R-Lehi, would allow drivers to use their handheld or hands-free devices to make and receive calls. It would also allow people to use their phones in a hands-free manner -- including using voice commands to send texts, play music or navigate.

Under a bill that passed last year and became law, "manipulation" of a handheld device (like a cell phone) is currently illegal in Utah. Anderegg said texting, instant messaging, watching videos or using the Internet while driving would remain illegal.

In an interview with FOX 13 on Thursday, Anderegg complained that the existing law makes Utah too much like a "nanny state" and his constituents wanted it scaled back.

"I think that some of what we did was good. Some of what we did was way too far," he said. "I'm saying let's be realistic and pull back a little bit."

Anderegg complained that currently, people are holding phones in their laps while driving -- making things more dangerous. His bill is getting opposition from the Utah Highway Patrol, which testified against it on Thursday. The UHP raised concerns about distracted driving and claimed that since the law went into effect last year, it had issued 1,086 warnings or citations.

The Utah Department of Transportation and the American Automobile Association both said it had concerns, but was "studying" HB63.

The bill will return to committee next week.