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An eastern Utah man was charged Wednesday with hitting and killing a Vernal teenager with his car while texting behind the wheel.
Jeffery Bascom, 28, of Jensen, was charged in 8th District Court with automobile homicide involving the use of a hand-held wireless communication device while driving, a second-degree felony, as well as obstruction of justice, a third-degree felony.
Vernal police said 15-year-old Tommy Clark and his friend were walking on the shoulder of 500 West at about 9 p.m. on Sept. 2 when a Dodge pickup driven by Bascom drifted off the road and hit Clark. Police alleged at the time that Bascom was texting.
Clark was taken to the hospital and died the next day.
There was no sidewalk where the crash occurred.
An amendment to Utah's texting-while-driving law took effect in May, making it illegal to be doing anything on a hand-held wireless communication device except making or receiving a call, or using GPS navigation. Before the change, a driver had to be sending a text at the instant an accident occurred merely looking at a text or the screen of a cellphone was not illegal.
The amendment is meant to make cases easier to prove, since prosecutors have said the narrow construction of the law made it almost impossible to get convictions.
As far as Deputy Uintah County Attorney MichaelDrechselis aware, this is the first time the new statute has been applied in his county.
Bascom has a long history of traffic violations dating back to when he was 16, according to Utah court records. In 2009, he was convicted of driving more than 40 mph over the speed limit.
He is scheduled to appear in court Monday.