A day after apparently killing it, the Utah Senate resurrected and passed a bill Wednesday to ban motorists younger than 18 from using cellphones while driving. It would still allow adults to use them legally.
Senators voted 17-12 to pass HB103, a day after they rejected it on an 11-13 vote. It now goes to Gov. Gary Herbert for his signature. Sponsoring Sen. Lyle Hillyard, R-Logan, said some of his supporters were absent during the earlier vote.
With the second-day debate sounding nearly identical to the first — but with a different outcome — Senate President Wayne Niederhauser said, "It’s a little bit like ‘Groundhog Day,’ " a movie where the same day keeps repeating, but a little differently each time.
The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Lee Perry, R-Perry, a Highway Patrol officer, earlier said the ban would be akin to other restrictions placed on young drivers going through graduated license procedures — including, for a time, not allowing passengers in their car besides parents, and not permitting driving between midnight and 5 a.m.
Hillyard said it is part of an educational process, and would bring only a $25 fine and no points on a driving record. "We’ve tried a carrot, and this is a minor stick."
But Sen. Daniel Thatcher, R-West Valley City, said, "The issue is not a teenager driver, it is any driver. ... It is any distraction that takes your attention from the road."
He added that other things besides cellphones can cause distraction and accidents. "Should we not include their radio [in the ban]? That is just as likely to cause an accident. Should we ban food?"
Sen. Diedre Henderson, R-Spanish Fork, added she is opposed to the "continual micromanaging of every little behavior that we engage in."
But Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross, said the bill will be discussed in driver education classes, and help young drivers develop good habits. "It will serve as a deterrent. It does send the right message."
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