This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2015, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
A law enacted last year to make it easier to enforce bans on texting while driving could soon be erased.
"Last year, I believe we went too far. This is a step back," said Rep. Jacob Anderegg, R-Lehi. He is pushing HB63 to again allow drivers to dial a phone number, or perhaps push a single button to text by voice commands or listen to music.
But Utah Highway Patrol Capt. Doug McCleve complained that would allow people to escape tickets by claiming they were not texting and were merely dialing a number. He said that's why last year's law was enacted and he is asking lawmakers to leave it intact.
The House Transportation Committee held initial debate on the bill Thursday. It voted 7-6 to hold the bill for more discussion and information, but several members who voted for the delay expressed support for Anderegg's efforts.
The Lehi lawmaker said the new law may actually have made the roads more dangerous because drivers are holding phones in their laps to prevent police from seeing them, causing drivers to look down instead of looking at the road.
Anderegg adds that modern cell phones allow texting by voice command but require hitting one button to start the process.
"If they [police] see me entering data, even my one button, it gives them discretion" to pull a driver over for a warning or a ticket, he said.
In the end, Anderegg said, no law can stop distracted driving, and education may be more effective.
But McCleve said Anderegg's bill "would create significant challenges for" law enforcement because people could escape tickets for texting by claiming they are dialing a phone number.
He said that would be especially dangerous since Utah just raised the speed limit on urban freeways to 70 mph.
"In three seconds, you are traveling the length of a football field at 70 mph," he said. "When you are traveling the length of a football field and you are not paying attention, grave and serious consequences can be the result."
McCleve said the law was used to write 1,086 warnings or citations since it took effect in May, but did not have data on convictions.
Most members who commented on the bill praised it. Rep. David Lifferth, R-Eagle Mountain, said, for example, "I appreciate some sanity and I will definitely vote for Rep. Anderegg's bill."
Rep. Kay Christofferson, R-Lehi, said, "I think this is a common-sense bill that puts the law in a more practical dimension."