Beginning tomorrow, Tuesday, May 13, 2014, Utah's new amendments to the Distracted Driving law will take effect. Over the past several week there have been various news stories, but I'm not sure that everyone is aware of the changes.
The new changes place restrictions on the use of a "handheld wireless communication device" while driving a car. A handheld wireless communication device includes a cell phone, ipod, tablet, laptop, smart phone, kindle, nook, or "any substanitally similar communication device that is readily removable from the vehicle and is used to write, send, or read text or data through manual input."
Here's a list of some things you cannot do with your phone/device while driving a car:
write, send, or read a written communication, including:
a text message
an instant message
dial a phone number
access the internet
view or record video
However, while driving your car you can still do the following:
use the handheld communication device for voice communication
use the handheld communication device for GPS navigation
use during a medical emergency
use when reporting a safety hazard
use when reporting criminal activity
use hands-free or voice operated technology
use a system that is physically or electronically integrated into the motor vehicle
If you're found guilty of violating this law it's a class C misdemeanor with a maximum fine of $100.00. But, if your violation of this law results in injury to someone else or if you have a prior conviction within three years it's a class B misdemeanor.
Here's a few more things that are defined as careless driving: searching for an item in the vehicle; or attending to personal hygiene or grooming.
You can read the full text of the Distracted Diriving law, Utah Code Ann. 41-6a-17, et seq., here.
I think this law will likely make our roads a lot safer. I would say that the cause of a majority of accident cases that we handle is due to distracted and inattentive driving. If you have specific questions about Utah's new distracted driving law, please give us a call at our office at 801-264-6677.