2018 Bills

HB 64: Unreasonable Restrictions on Cell Phone Use

This bill failed in the House Transportation Committee.

Libertas Institute opposes this bill

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

In the 2014 general session, a bill sponsored by Senator Steve Urquhart enacted more stringent bans on the use of cell phones while driving. The bill passed despite a fair amount of opposition in both chambers.

A new bill by Representative Carol Spackman Moss is doubling down on this recent change by adding more restrictions on drivers wishing to communicate via cell phone while operating a vehicle.

House Bill 64 would change the law to say that unless a driver is using hands-free technology, he or she may not use a cell phone to initiate or answer a call.

Existing law already says that while a driver may not text, send emails, etc., he or she may use a phone for voice communication — in other words, making or receiving calls. This bill would eliminate that exemption.

The primary concern with this approach is its unreasonableness in targeting one activity over others. For example, drivers are allowed to manually manipulate their air conditioning, seat position, mirrors, stereo system, and more. Why, then, should the law discriminate and legally ban a person from pressing a button to answer a call?

Further, not all voice-activated phones are set up to constantly listen for the user’s voice commands—and those that are allow this option to be disabled to preserve battery live and privacy. In other words, to initiate a voice command, a user would have to press a button on their phone—something prohibited under this proposed legislation.

While we understand and sympathize with the motive of this legislation—reducing accidents and fatalities due to driver distraction—a more comprehensive and fair approach would be better rather than focusing on one activity such as making and receiving calls.

  • akline51

    I disagree with you. Most of the car controls become memory habit and can be done without looking. I am not sure hands free is the complete answer, but try to enforce it and that is not possible as the person could be singing or practicing a speech. Distracted driving has been proven to be just as dangerous.as drunk driving. Holding the phone to your ear already reduces to one hand driving. People think you can multi task, well when driving that is pretty hard.We think we will never have it happen, but it is. Most new cars have bluetooth connections and pushing one button on the wheel lets you give voice commands. Two way radios that use a microphone do not seem to be an issue as you only hold the Mic while talking. Police computers should be voice activated as well, police reading a computer while driving is as dangerous as texting.

    • Scott

      Its already illegal to swerve in and out of your lane, cut people off, or be in an accident. It doesnt matter the reason. We don’t need more restrictions just because some democrat wants to be a phone nazi.

      • akline51

        We also do not need more dead people. Requiring hands free is a good choice. Go to the University of Utah and take the test to see how you react. The existing laws have too many loopholes to let people get out of it.

        • guitarcarl

          You don’t really understand freedom do you? What is the loophole you’re talking about? Does it make the dead come back to life? If you slam into another car and kill someone what difference does it make if they were using a hands free device or just in a hurry or something else?

          • akline51

            I understand freedom very well, the loophole was calling home or reporting an incident. It has already been proven that distracted driving is as dangerous if not more than DUI. That is why, you do not have the right to put my life in danger because you were distracted. Using hands free at least gives you two hands to operate your vehicle and does not provide as much distraction. So I guess you say you should be able to drive drunk. There is no freedom to talk on the phone while driving as driving is a privilege granted by the State

          • jim smith

            Spoken like a statist. Big surprise.

          • James Brown

            I love this often repeated lie “distracted driving is as dangerous if not more than DUI.” Any reasonable person can see this is false. Look around at the people next to you on the road. How many do you see using their phones while driving? No imagine that we had THAT MANY people who were ACTUALLY driving DRUNK!!!

            It sounds really stupid when you look at it that way, doesn’t it? It leaves rational people with only one of two options.
            1) using your phone is NOT even remotely as dangerous as DUI
            2) there are very few people using their phone while driving

            Since we know from direct observation that it is not #2, that doesn’t leave very many options.

          • jim smith

            Akline51 doesn’t care about YOUR freedom.

        • James Brown

          The junk science tests concocted by Dr. Strayer and others at the University of Utah are just that, junk science. There are numerous problems with their methods and their conclusions. I don’t know who was paying off this research, but it is the worst kind of influence pedaling disguised as “Science”(tm).

          Read my article describing some of the many issues with their methods and conclusions here: https://blog.hmpg.net/p/debunking-science-behind-cell-phone-and.html

          Consider the last big snow storm we had in Utah. There were dozens, probably hundreds, of accidents in a very short period because of weather. Yet, do we ban people from driving when it snows? Probably more accidents in a single snow storm than in an entire year of supposedly distracted driving from cell phones.

  • James Brown

    I agree with this assessment. There is no credible evidence that shows that manipulating your phone (even to send texts, etc.) is more dangerous than any of a variety of other activities driver’s routinely engage in, including those that you mentioned in this article.

    The only way one would know if another driver was “driving distracted” would be to witness some BEHAVIOR that indicated they were distracted such as repeatedly cross the lane lines (already illegal), traveling at an unsafe speed (already illegal), following too closely (already illegal), etc. As noted, all of the BEHAVIORS that one might use to detect distracted driving are already illegal.

    There is no reason to demonize an inanimate object to make people feel better. Instead, simply enforce the existing laws that prohibit the dangerous behaviors.