Ban on cellphones for young drivers advances
SB128 • Narrowly tailored measure would apply only to those 16 to 17 years old.
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The fate of a bill to ban 16- and 17-year-old drivers from using cellphones while behind the wheel remains unclear as it moves to a final vote later this week.

Sen. Ross Romero, D-Salt Lake City, is proposing to prohibit the phone use, arguing that young drivers are more likely to phone while driving and more likely to endanger themselves and others on the roads.

"This bill has been very narrowly tailored and it's addressing a problem that specifically is affecting young individuals," Romero said. "This is a significant public safety issue."

SB128 got preliminary approval Monday on a 19-9 vote, but several of those who voted in favor expressed concerns about the measure and may not support it when it comes up for final passage later this week. Romero said he is optimistic he will have enough votes to move the bill on to the House.

Others, such as Sen. Daniel Thatcher, R-West Valley City, said distracted driving is already against the law — although an officer can't stop a driver for it, specifically, as they would be able to under Romero's proposal.

It also is difficult to enforce, Thatcher said.

"This may be popular to do, but it's bad for law enforcement," he said. "A law enforcement officer cannot tell the difference between a 17-year-old and 18-year-old visually."

Romero acknowledged that it might be difficult to enforce and said he doesn't expect many citations to be issued, but thinks young drivers will comply because it is the law.

The bill would allow calls if the driver is talking to a parent, reporting a hazard or seeking emergency help.