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The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

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Texting ban should be a wake-up call

By Aaron Zundel

So it’s official. Come July 1, people won’t be allowed to text while driving in the state of Utah. House Bill 290, signed into law by Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. on Wednesday, now makes texting while driving a class C misdemeanor and a primary traffic offense (for those not up to date on their traffic terminology, that means cops can pull you over if they catch you doing it), punishable by up to 90 days in prison and/or a $750 fine.

Lol WTH, right?

Surely this new law won’t affect the majority of U students. Unfortunately, I believe the lack of effect will likely have more to do with the inability of law enforcement to adequately enforce the texting ban and less to do with any law-abiding inclinations on the part of student drivers, who undoubtedly send more text messages while driving than any other demographic. (Except for you, reader. As an educated consumer of The Daily Utah Chronicle, you couldn’t possibly be guilty of text messaging while driving. Yeah, neither am I…)

Critics of the new law, including some in law enforcement themselves, point out that police and highway patrol officers will have a difficult time spotting drivers who decide to shoot off a text in lieu of paying attention to the road, and even if officers successfully spot an offender, they will struggle to prove said offenders were texting in the first place (“I was dialing my sick grandmother, officer! I swear!”).

These critics are right. However, I differ from these critics on one important aspect of H.B. 290. I don’t believe the new law needs to be enforced all that broadly, though critics seem to think that the point of the new law is to enable some sort of statewide crackdown on texting, which is, in fact, not the point at all.

H.B. 290 sponsor Sen. Lyle Hillyard told reporters that he’s not interested in blanket enforcement “It’s a mindset we’re changing,” he said about the new anti-texting law. “If we had to guarantee every law we passed would always be enforced, there wouldn’t be many.”

To put a finer point on it, by “changing a mindset,” Hillyard is talking about a new attitude of responsibility drivers are expected to adopt. In effect, the law expects Utah drivers to start acting like conscientious adults in control of a two-and-a-half-ton chunk of accelerated steel, not dumb kids haphazardly swerving around on big wheels. The reasoning behind this expectation is pretty clear: Study after study has shown that texting impairs driving ability at least as much, if not more than, driving drunk. In fact, in 2008, a study by the England-based Transport Research Laboratory found texting drivers were 23 percent more impaired than their drunk counterparts.

So the next time you get in the car, do yourself a favor8212;put the phone away. Does the new anti-texting legislation mean Utah drivers need to fear receiving a whopping fine the next time they pick up their cell phone and click out another variation of “ur so awesome!”?

Probably not.

What it does mean is Utah drivers need to take the hint and re-examine their mindset the next time they get behind the wheel. As clichéd as it sounds, you really might save a life8212;or at the very least a headache and a few thousand dollars in body work.

[email protected]

Aaron Zundel

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