Transportation bills give, or take, freedom on road
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

The Legislature debated often this year about freedom on the road — sometimes expanding it, and sometimes creating new restrictions that had been avoided for years.

It passed HB83 to expand 80 mph speed zones. For four years, such zones have been allowed on some sections of Interstate 15 between Nephi and Cedar City — and the bill now expands that to between Santaquin and St. George.

It also would allow 80 mph zones — where officials determine they would be safe — on I-15 from Brigham City to the Idaho border, on Interstate 84 from Tremonton to Idaho and on Interstate 80 from Nevada to the Tooele-Stansbury exit.

But lawmakers pulled back on what some argued were matters of freedom and parental rights by passing HB13 to ban smoking in cars when children are present. Similar bills had failed the past four years as many conservatives pushed back. But the bill finally passed.

Lawmakers also banned, by passing HB103, using cellphones while driving — but only for those younger than 18. Rep. Lee Perry, R-Perry, a Highway Patrol lieutenant, argued that is similar to other restrictions to keep teens safe as they learn to drive.

It has been proposed for years, but often was killed by those who worried it might lead to a ban for all drivers. The Senate actually killed the bill once this week, but resurrected and passed it the next day. Legislators did reject a perennial attempt to beef up enforcement of seat belt laws. They killed two different bills that would have allowed police to pull over and ticket anyone they see not wearing a seat belt. Current law allows writing such tickets only if drivers are pulled over for another violation first.

Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross, said he intended to push a bill to require motorcyclists to wear helmets — but found opposition so intense that he never introduced the bill. Lawmakers did approve HB34 to create a new license plate with the motto: "In God We Trust."

Lawmakers this year also giftwrapped tens of millions of dollars for a long list of local road projects — and circumvented normal prioritization of them by the Utah Transportation Commission.

After the state just finished such massive projects as rebuilding I-15 in Utah County, Sen. Stuart Adams, R-Layton, said adding the projects would allow a "soft landing" for road construction firms. But House speaker Becky Lockhart attacked it for politically picking targeted projects.

Earmarks include a variety of road projects in Bluffdale, Cottonwood Heights, Draper, Herriman, Midvale, Murray, Ogden, Sandy, South Jordan, Taylorsville, Tooele, West Jordan and West Valley City.