2022 Bills

SB 102: Increased Restrictions on Using Devices While Driving

This bill passed the House 45-25 and passed the Senate 17-9.

Libertas Institute opposes this bill

Staff review of the legislation finds that it violates our principles and must therefore be opposed.

In past years the Legislature has severely restricted the means by which Utahns operating vehicles may use a mobile device. One unfortunate consequence has been that drivers continue using phones but, to avoid criminal prosecution, do so down in their laps, out of the line of sight, so the phone is not seen by passing police officers rather than keeping the phone in their line of sight. Insurance industry research has shown that cell phone bans have in this way made the roads more dangerous.

This year, Senator Chris Wilson is sponsoring Senate Bill 102 which amends the current law to criminalize two additional behaviors:

  1. Currently, Utahns are only prohibited from dialing a phone number, sending emails, texts, etc. while operating a moving vehicle. SB 102 would also prohibit these activities when stopped at a red light or stop sign. In other words, it would now be a crime to dial a phone number while safely stopped at a light. It would also be illegal to quickly send a three-word text to a friend or take a photo of something concerning happening in the intersection. Despite being stopped in the vehicle, effectively any use of a mobile phone would now be criminalized.
  2. The current law puts these prohibitions on the “manual” use of the device — so using a voice-activated feature, such as with Siri on an iPhone, is legal. In other words, you can send a text using just your voice and that is legal. SB 102 would remove this as an option by making the use of the device a crime whether it is done “manually” or not.

These additions to the existing law are unnecessarily excessive and a significant over-criminalization of an activity that only accounts for the cause of just over 1 percent of highway fatalities. If a person can safely send a quick text, or dial a phone number, while stopped for more than a minute at a red light, the law should not criminalize this conduct. And the voice-activated capabilities of these devices should not be banned.