Utah House endorses bill to ban drivers’ hand-held phone use

February 25, 2020 GMT

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — The Utah House advanced a bill to help enforce laws banning the use of hand-held cellphones while driving.

The House endorsed the bill and forwarded it to the Senate Monday, The Salt Lake Tribune reported.

Hand-held cellphone use while driving has been illegal in Utah since 2007 but can only be enforced simultaneously with another moving violation, such as speeding.

The bill overcame previous arguments that the legislation would do little to change driver behavior or would interfere too much with personal freedom.

“This is about changing habits. It’s not hard,” said Democratic Rep. Carol Moss, the bill’s sponsor.

Moss pushed the bill for years despite its previous failure. Polls showed three of every four state residents favored the measure.

The latest version of the bill received support from the Utah Highway Patrol, police chiefs, sheriffs, school bus drivers, insurance companies, prosecutors, and motorcycle groups.

Changes to the new bill included reducing penalties many Republicans said were too harsh.

Under the updated bill, a first offense would be an infraction, similar to most other traffic violations, rather than the earlier proposed misdemeanor punishable by up to 90 days in jail and a $750 fine.