With the second highest fine in the United States, Utah is making a statement against distracted driving, particularly using a cell phone while operating a motor vehicle.

The current fine for such an infraction in Utah is $750 -- only Oregon has a higher fine at $1,000.

The problem is, we're not getting the message.

Just take a 10-minute drive anywhere in Utah and you will see approximately 25 percent of people using their phones while driving.

A few weeks ago, while going 80-miles per hour on the freeway, I passed a lady going a similar speed. She had one hand holding her phone and it looked like she was reading a Kindle book. Her other hand was engaged in extracting, um, excess nostril deposits from her nose.

I'm not sure what she was steering with, perhaps her knee or other body appendage.

Nevertheless, I'm pretty sure her method of driving was not legal.

The St. George Police Department recently posted on social media the plea to "Put your phones down," and some of the social media responses were spot on:

  • Drove from St. George to Salt Lake today and the amount of people doing 80+ mph while on their phones was absolutely ridiculous. Unfortunately they won't learn until something bad happens. -- Courtney P.
  • Kids in school learned to hide their phone under their desk, and then they turned into adults and still look down at their lap when driving. Bad habit to have. -- Andrew J.
  • Way too many people on their phones. -- Leann K.
  • Are there E-dui laws here?? -- Brandy L.

According to Utah Code 41-6a-1716 subsections 1 and 2, a driver may not use any “handheld wireless communication device” (a mobile phone, laptop, tablet, or similar electronic device) while operating a motor vehicle. A list of prohibited actions includes: Writing, sending, or reading text messages or instant messages, manually dialing a number, playing a game, reading a book, taking a photo, etc.

Distracted driving laws in Utah prohibit other uses of cellphones while driving, not just texting and sending emails. It is now illegal to use a cellphone in any way except for GPS apps or hands-free voice talking while driving.

According to the Utah Department of Public Safety, the state saw 27,514 motor vehicle accidents between 2017 and 2021 caused by distracted driving. That figure includes 15,004 crashes resulting in injuries and 74 deaths.

Yes, 74 people in five years died on Utah roads due to distracted driving. Someone's loved one didn't come home because of a text or instant message.

If that's not a big enough motivator, maybe a financial incentive will work.

This graphic from traffictickets.com illustrates the fines for the offenses:


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