One year later: Has Utah’s law against cell phone use while driving made us safer?

Posted at 6:27 PM, May 08, 2015
and last updated 2015-05-08 20:27:46-04

SALT LAKE CITY -- It's been one year since Utah’s law banning most cell phone use while driving went into effect, and the bill gave police another tool to crack down on distracted driving.

In May of last year, a law went into effect that made it illegal to manipulate your cell phone while behind the wheel. FOX 13 News took a look at numbers from the Utah Highway Patrol to see how that law has impacted Utah's roads in the past year.

"What we see now, where we didn't see it before, is people will look over at us and hurry and put their cell phone down," said Sgt. Todd Royce with the Utah Highway Patrol.

Texting, updating Facebook, using maps or any manipulating of a cell phone is against the law while driving. Since the implementation of the law last year, UHP has pulled over more than 1,300 offenders.

"We're looking for that person that's spending way too much time on their phone and not enough time on their vehicle," Royce said.

Of the 1,300 drivers who have been pulled over for breaking the new law over the past year, 937 received warnings and only 380 were given citations.

"We don't want to be the bad guys that go out and write you a ticket for it all the time, we would rather you just think, 'Hey, this is a good idea, and I'm going to put my cell phone down,'” Royce said.

But has the law made Utah’s roads safer? Numbers show from May of 2013 to May of 2014 there were 140 crashes where cell phones were a contributing factor. That number dropped in the past year to 126. Drivers agree the law reminds them to keep their eyes on the road.

“I, now I don't do it anymore, I put my cell phone away and will not text and drive nor will I try and talk and drive on my cell phone,” said Tom Anzer of Salt Lake City.

“It’s made me more conscious and aware when I do it, which is not frequently, so I would say the law has been beneficial,” said Letitia Hawk of Salt Lake City.

John Gleason, a spokesman for the Utah Department of Transportation, said their goal is to keep people safe.

"We're all in this together," he said. "If you're a passenger and your driver needs to send a text or answer a phone, help them out. The only way we'll reach our goal of zero fatalities is working together."