(KCPW News) Earlier this week, the Utah Senate passed a bill banning minors from using cell phones while driving. But instead of sending it to the House for consideration, the Senate recalled it and killed it during an unusual re-vote Thursday morning. And on top of that, it was brought back yet again that afternoon to be reconsidered. Republican Senator John Valentine is one of the swing votes holding the bill back. He said he understands both sides of the issue.
“I found myself drifting lanes, trying to dial a number or trying to look down to look up a number,” he said. “So these are tough, tough issues and it’s hard to really come up with a good answer. But I think I’m more prone to look at the freedoms that we lose all the time up here.”
With that, Valentine changed his vote from “yes” to “no.”
Democratic Senator Ross Romero, the bill’s sponsor, said he originally recalled the bill in the Senate to make an amendment to satisfy concerns that it could lead to profiling of young drivers. The amendment made it so police could only cite teens for using a cell phone if they’re pulled over for another reason, like illegal lane changes, speeding or suspicion of drunken driving.
“So making this a secondary offense removed that as a concern,” said Romero. “And so I thought it was a reasonable request as the bill moved forward. I didn’t expect that the move to a secondary offense would cause it to fail in the Senate, though.”
Senate Bill 113, “Wireless Telephone Use Restrictions for Minors in Vehicles” is now on the Senate calendar waiting further consideration. If approved, it still must pass through the House in the two weeks remaining during the legislative session, before being sent to the governor for his approval.
UPDATE: Senator Romero amended the bill once again to exempt teenagers who are speaking with their parents on a cell phone while driving. The measure was then re-approved by the Senate.