2 Utah lawmakers present dueling distracted driving bills

Posted at 9:54 PM, Feb 17, 2015
and last updated 2015-02-17 23:54:31-05

SALT LAKE CITY -- When it comes to the rules of the road, state lawmakers aren't sure of the best way to navigate what comes next.

Two lawmakers, in particular, are headed in completely opposite directions.

Rep. Jake Anderegg, R-Lehi, and Sen. Stephen Urquhart, R- St. George, are proposing dueling bills that focus on Utah's distracted driving law.

Anderegg's bill would scale back the law, while Urquhart's would strengthen it.

"I think that his (Urquhart's) bill is a smaller version of class warfare," said Anderegg, who pitched his proposal on the House floor Tuesday.

Under the bill, drivers would be allowed to dial and answer cellphone calls with their hands, something current law prohibits.

Anderegg argues that Urquhart is forcing people who cannot afford a hands-free device, such as Bluetooth, to simply not have the same access.

"Those who are the haves can comply with the law, and those who are the have-nots, I guess, are just going to have to not use their phones at all in their vehicles." said Anderegg. "Class warfare."

However, over in a Senate committee meeting, Urquhart wouldn't even entertain the idea.

"I don't think that really warrants a response," Urquhart said. "That's silly talk."

Under his bill, Urquhart aims to tighten the current law, which allows drivers to hold a phone in their hands, as long as they are not pressing or "manipulating" any keys.  The proposal would eliminate that entirely, only allowing drivers to use a hands-free device.

"Taking a step backwards, really, would be a foolish option,” Urquhart said.

After debate on the House floor, Anderegg's bill was circled, a move he agreed with in order to give other lawmakers more time to look at the legislation.

Urquhart's bill passed the Senate Transportation and Public Utilities and Technology Committee 3-1. It now heads to the full Senate for further debate.