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Sen. Lyle Hillyard, R-Logan, says lawyers discovered a loophole in Utah's recent ban on texting while driving, which he is now trying to close.
They "found that if you text and don't send, it's not a violation of the law," said Hillyard, who is an attorney himself. So he is pushing SB98 to clarify that "texting is a violation of the law even if you don't send the message."
The Senate Transportation and Public Utilities and Technology approved the bill unanimously on Wednesday, and sent it to the full Senate.
The bill goes to great lengths to define what is banned. It says that includes using a hand-held device to communicate through e-mail, "manually enter data," "send data, read text, or view images," or "manipulate an application." It also says a person is guilty of automobile homicide if using such devices negligently in an accident where someone is killed.
However, the bill still would allow drivers to make or receive voice telephone calls, and allows using handheld devices for GPS or navigation purposes.
Sen. Kevin Van Tassell, R-Vernal, asked if a phone application that he has, which verbally reads email and allows him to respond verbally, would be allowed. Hillyard said he is not sure, but would figure that out as the bill advances. He said the intent is to ban activities that take "thoughts and our eyes off the road."
Hillyard said that despite the loophole, he has heard much praise about the ban enacted in 2009 helping to cut down on texting while driving and said many families have told him they use it to pressure loved ones to stop. In text jargon, they might be saying: "4 FOGC, N/T," or, "For fear of getting caught, no texting."