UHP sees increase in motorists texting while driving

Posted at 7:15 PM, Dec 29, 2015
and last updated 2015-12-30 09:55:16-05

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah - The number of Utahns texting while driving appears to be going up, according to numbers released by Utah Highway Patrol Tuesday.

In a six-month period, troopers pulled over 780 people for texting, emailing and checking Twitter while behind the wheel.

It’s the second year in a row the number has gone up. Troopers looked at the number of people pulled over between May and October of 2015 and saw a 12-percent increase over 2014 when troopers pulled over 692 people.

“What that entails is somebody who is driving down the road and actually manipulating their cell phone,” said Sgt. Todd Royce, spokesman with UHP. “Not just pushing a single button and bringing it up to their ear and talking.”

Royce said about two-thirds of those pulled over in 2015 were just given a warning, but drivers should expect troopers to be stricter going forward. Current distracted driving laws went into effect in 2014, making everything except talking and using navigation illegal.

“One in four crashes is the result of distracted driving,” said John Gleason, spokesman for Utah Department of Transportation. “It’s really kind of the day and age that we live in. These days if the phone rings, we feel like we need to answer it. If someone texts, you feel like you need to respond right away.”

According to the Zero Fatalities campaign, 22 fatal crashes were attributed to distracted driving in 2014.

Royce said aside from those blitzes, they’re not specifically looking for texting. It’s just popping up more frequently.

“We’re just hoping that trend changes,” Royce said. “We’ve gotten into some bad habits over the years, a lot of us have. And we’re hoping people take a look at that and change.”

Royce said the key to curbing those numbers starts with a personal commitment by drivers to put the phone down while behind the wheel.

Someone caught texting while driving can face a $100 fine, if they cause an accident, the fine jumps to $1,000.