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UHP Hoping New Cellphone Law Reduces Distracted-Driving Accidents

PHOTO: The Utah Highway Patrol is hoping a new law helps reduce traffic crashes and deaths caused by distracted driving. Photo courtesy of Town of Danville, Calif.
PHOTO: The Utah Highway Patrol is hoping a new law helps reduce traffic crashes and deaths caused by distracted driving. Photo courtesy of Town of Danville, Calif.
April 8, 2014

SALT LAKE CITY - The Utah Highway Patrol (UHP) is hoping a new law will help reduce traffic accidents caused by distracted driving. Senate Bill 253, known as "Distracted Driver Amendments," limits interaction between a driver and a cellphone when behind the wheel.

UHP Sgt. Todd Royce said it should help reduce the growing number of distracted-driving-related crashes and fatalities.

"Anything we can do to help people focus more on driving and less on distractions in-vehicle is a great help. We believe that this will help save lives, there's no doubt about that," Royce said.

Utah law already prohibits texting on a cellphone while driving. The new law bans use of a cellphone while driving for the purposes of dialing a number, emailing, instant-messaging, accessing the Internet and viewing or recording video. Although drivers still will be allowed to hold the phone to their face and talk, they will have to use voice commands to dial. The law also permits use of cellphones during health and safety emergencies.

According to the UHP, 11 deaths were caused by distracted driving in the state last year. Royce said law enforcement personnel now view distracted driving as potentially deadly as drunk driving.

"Whether it's drunk driving or being impaired by a distraction in your vehicle, it's taking your attention away from your primary responsibility," he explained.

Drivers cited under the new law could face a $100 fine.

Royce said the best advice he can give motorists is to not use a cellphone at all when driving.

The full legislation (SB 253) is available at le.utah.gov.

Troy Wilde, Public News Service - UT