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New bill aims to cut distracted driving

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SALT LAKE CITY — As Senate bill 253 sits on the desk on Governor Herbert awaiting his signature, the Utah Highway Patrol reacts to the possibility of roads without as many distracted drivers.

It's an already a busy weekend for the Utah Highway Patrol.

"It's St. Patrick's Day weekend and kind of the kick-off to spring. We have a higher percentage of impaired drivers out on the roadway," said Utah Highway Patrol Sgt. Tom Schneiter.

But "impaired" doesn't always mean driving under the influence.

"In terms of accident reductions, (distracted driving) is probably one of the highest accident contributors we have right now," Schneiter said.

Senate Bill 253 aims to change that. It would prohibit motorists operating their cell phones for anything without the use of a hands-free device.

The bill already cleared the House and the Senate.

"All of those things, they still keep the attention off the road, and so this expands from texting to be any manipulation of a device," said Senator Steve Urquhart of St. George.

He says he was inspired to sponsor the bill after a St. George couple was struck by someone texting behind the wheel. The man, David Henson pushed his wife to safety, but died from his injuries.

If the bill becomes law, Schneiter said not only would it make our roads safer, but also help officers enforce it.

"Unless we can associate (drivers) with texting or stop them for a moving violation, can't stop them for that itself. The bill will change all of that," Schneiter said.

"Hopefully it can correct that behavior that's creating a headache for other drivers and causing some of our accidents. That's the ultimate goal."

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