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Lawmakers show a need for speed, but not more seat-belt enforcement

80 mph expansion OK’d, but tougher seat-belt safety rejected.

First Published Mar 14 2014 12:03 am • Last Updated Mar 14 2014 12:03 am

Transportation bills took a wild, sometimes swerving ride in this year’s legislative session.

Lawmakers approved allowing 80 mph speed zones on any state freeway where officials determine it is safe at the same time they killed bills to toughen seat-belt enforcement, arguing it infringed on personal freedom.

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They waited until the last night to pass a bill to make it easier to enforce laws that ban texting while driving. SB253, now on its way to the governor, would ban manual punching of keys of any device capable of texting while driving.

Legislators had no hesitation outlawing panhandling along state highways and shoulders, aside from some qualms that the bill will also ban off-the-sidewalk honk-and-waves by politicians and fill-the-boot drives by firefighters. Lawmakers on the final night declined to pass a bill to allow counties to put on voter ballots a quarter-cent sales-tax hike to provide more money for mass transit. They also killed proposed hikes in the gasoline tax to better fund roads. At the same time, they passed a bill to let highway officials raise money by selling ads on their smart-phone traffic app and at rest stops.

A bill to raise registration fees on electric and alternative-fuel cars to pay help for roads seemed to have a head of steam early, but then the provisions were stripped out of bills in the end. Legislators took away the ability of someone who starts a chase with police to sue for injuries. It renamed SR-73 in honor of slain Utah County Sheriff Sgt. Cory Wride.

Lawmakers made it easier for bars to offer Breathalyzer vending machines to avoid drunken driving, after the sponsor backed off a controversial early idea to make them mandatory. Also passing was a bill to allow people to buy a new Utah Jazz license plate, with the proceeds going to charity.

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