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New law for Utah teens: no cell phones while driving

On May 14 a new Utah law takes effect that bans teen drivers from using a cell phone while driving. House Bill 103, sponsored by Rep. Lee Perry and Sen. Lyle Hillyard, is designed to protect new drivers from distraction as they develop and hone their driving skills.

While the new law prohibits drivers up to 18 years of age from talking on a cell phone, there are exceptions designed to maintain safety. These exceptions include using a cell phone to report a medical or safety hazard, to request assistance related to a safety hazard, to report criminal activity, to request assistance related to a criminal activity, or to communicate with a parent or legal guardian. The fine is $25, it is a non-reportable violation and points will not be assessed against the teens driving record.

This is the newest law directed at teen drivers. Previous laws include the Graduated Driving Laws which include extra hours of practice time before getting a license, a passenger limitation component and a nighttime ban for new drivers. An anti-texting law for all drivers also makes the driving experience safer for teens.

  Laws designed to protect teens during their early years of driving are effective. According to the Utah Highway Safety Office's 2010 Utah Crash Summary, teen fatal crashes have declined 53 percent since the first Graduated Driver Licensing Law was enacted.

  "Even though teen fatal crashes have been reduced through teen driving laws, we know young drivers are still overly represented in crashes. Teens make up 8 percent of the drivers but were in 21 percent of all crashes in Utah," said Rep. Perry, bill sponsor and Highway Patrol Lieutenant. "This law addresses a major safety concern we have with young drivers. We know from recent surveys that the majority of high school students admit to talking on a cell phone while driving."

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