Measure to limit cellphone use to drivers 18 and older moves to House

Feb 14 2013 - 12:36am

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SALT LAKE CITY -- Elissa Schee lost her 13-year-old daughter to a distracted driver on his cellphone.

The Cottonwood Heights mother spoke Wednesday in support of a bill that would limit cellphone use to drivers 18 or older.

"I do believe this law is a step in the right direction. Teach kids young if you don't get into this habit, then it won't be a hard habit to break when you are of age," Schee said.

Sponsored by Rep. Lee Perry, R-Perry, HB 103 cleared a House committee with a favorable recommendation. It now advances to the House for further consideration.

Perry described the measure as a best practice targeted at reducing potential problems for teenage drivers. A similar measure passed last session but did not make it through the House before the session ended. Lawmakers did ban texting while driving last year.

A University of Utah study shows a teen on a cellphone is as impaired as a person driving with a 0.8 blood alcohol level, according to Perry. Another study done in 2010 showed 8 percent of Utah drivers were younger than 18 but were involved in 21 percent of the accidents in the state.

Rep. Edward Redd, R-North Logan, who is deputy medical examiner for Cache County, said he has dealt with the results of distracted people behind the wheel. He said the data generated on the problem is hard to ignore.

Redd challenged the testimony of Connor Boyack of the Libertas Institute, who said the measure was a move down the slippery slope of government infringing on personal freedom.

"What do you do with the science? Do you just ignore that?" Redd asked. He said data collected in the last decade has helped people identify potential risks and shouldn't be ignored.

Rep. Paul Ray, R-Clinton, said one of the reasons government needs to act on some measures is to protect other drivers.

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