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His death helped tighten Utah’s driving laws, now his widow opposes efforts to undo changes

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Posted at 9:04 PM, Jan 30, 2015
and last updated 2015-01-30 23:34:56-05

ST GEORGE, Utah – The widow of a man whose death helped tighten Utah’s distracted driving laws is upset a Utah lawmaker is trying to loosen them.

Leslee Henson said she was angry to learn about HB 63, a bill that would allow drivers to use handheld devices to make and receive calls, and also allow texting and playing music through hands-free devices. Henson helped push through the current law regarding cell phone use in cars, one that passed just one year ago.

“We still call it Dave’s bill, because we did it for him,” Henson said. “There was a lot of work that went into it.”

Leslee’s husband David died in 2013. It was the result of a woman texting while driving. Henson also received critical injuries. So, for her, the thought of loosening restrictions is a step in the wrong direction.

“We couldn’t understand it,” she said. “I still wear the physical scars from that day and that accident and the emotional scars are horrific.”

St. George police said in 2014 they issued close to 780 distracted driving citations, that includes cell phone use and other distractions. Additionally, the number of single car crashes seems to has gone down, but officers said it’s still one of the main causes of accidents.

“Anecdotally and statistically-wise, you can look around and see people on their phones almost constantly,” said St. George police Captain Gordon McCracken.

McCracken said distracted driving has been a lot easier to enforce under the current laws. Most of that is due to the fact that there’s little gray area. The list of things allowed is very short. That’s the main reason Henson says she hopes the law stays the way it is.

“It’s an irresponsible thing,” Henson said. “People get in their cars and pick up their phones and they’re not looking where they’re going and their hands aren’t on the wheel; and it can take people’s lives like it did my husband’s.”

House bill 63 could come back into committee next week.