A lot can happen inside your car, even when you’re on your own. While you’re meant to have your full attention on the road, there are plenty of opportunities to be distracted while driving. Driving while distracted is extremely dangerous and results in thousands of injuries every year. Despite this danger, distracted driving laws vary, and what is permissible in one state may not be in Utah and vice versa.
Utah residents should understand the risks associated with distracted driving and what to do when they’re involved in an accident caused by a distracted driver. Utah’s distracted driving laws have specific restrictions and exceptions regarding what you can do while operating a motor vehicle. It’s worth it to carefully consider what you need to know about these laws and what legal options are available to you. Consult an experienced distracted driving accident lawyer about recovering damages from your accident.
Utah’s Distracted Driving Laws
Utah has particular rules regarding what is permitted while driving. In Utah, state legislation primarily addresses the dangers of texting and driving, leaving other distractions largely unaddressed. Utah Code Section 41-6a-1716 prohibits using wireless communication devices while operating a motor vehicle, with a few exceptions.
The Utah code specifies that wireless communication device includes a variety of devices such as:
- Cell phones
- Personal digital assistants
The statute also specifies that these devices may not be used while operating a moving motor vehicle on a highway to manually perform actions, like:
- Write or send a text message
- Dial a phone number
- Access the internet
- Take a photo
- Read a text message
- View a video or photograph
This statute excludes explicitly two-way radios “or a functional equivalent.”
Exceptions to Utah’s Distracted Driving Laws
While manually entering messages and information is largely prohibited while driving, several scenarios allow for exceptions to Utah’s distracted driving statute.
Citizens in Utah are permitted to do the following while driving:
- Communicating vocally
- Using voice-operated technology
- Reporting an emergency or crime
These exceptions also permit law enforcement and emergency services personnel to use wireless communication devices if they are acting within the course and scope of their jobs. Essentially, you can use a phone while driving to talk on the phone hands-free and handle emergencies.
What Does Utah Law Say About Eating While Driving?
It is not against the law in Utah to consume non-alcoholic beverages or eat while driving. Even though eating while driving is not something people can do safely, no state has established a law that makes eating or drinking non-alcoholic beverages a crime.
On the other hand, eating while driving can be considered negligent since it increases the risk of severe injury or death. Should someone be injured in an accident where one of the drivers was eating, the injured party could file a lawsuit and make a negligence claim.
Utah Code Section 41-6a-1715 defines careless driving and prohibits other careless behavior behind the wheel, such as looking around the car for a lost object, taking care of one’s personal hygiene, or grooming.
How Distracted Driving Laws are Enforced and Penalized in Utah
Two types of enforcement are used in Utah: primary and secondary. Primary enforcement means that if the police observe you breaking the state’s distracted driving laws, they may pull you over without having another reason for doing so. While secondary enforcement means the police can only issue a citation for engaging in distracted driving if you violate another law simultaneously.
Utah’s careless driving legislation allows for secondary enforcement of the anti-distraction laws, so driving carelessly while distracted could get you pulled over for the original crime as well as for careless driving.
Primary law infringements can have different repercussions depending on the situation. The following are potential penalties a distracted driver may face based on the nature of their offense:
- A first offense of distracted driving that does not result in anyone’s injury or death is often a class C misdemeanor with a potential fine of $100.
- The infraction is a class B misdemeanor if the driver has been priorly convicted of distracted driving within the last three years or if they severely injured someone with this behavior. A conviction entails a maximum fine of $1,000 and a possible sentence of six months in prison.
- A distracted driver may be charged with vehicular homicide if their actions result in the death of another person. Vehicle homicide can be a second or third-degree crime. A conviction entails a possible 20-year prison sentence and fines of up to $10,000, depending on the specifics.
Judges can suspend a driver’s license for up to three months for engaging in distracted driving. A distracted driving conviction will also result in 50 additional points being added to the driver’s record. A driver’s license may also be suspended if the driver accumulates at least 200 points within three years.
Consult Experienced Distracted Driving Accident Lawyers in Utah
Although they provide us unmatched convenience, cell phones can occasionally be a deadly distraction. Utah residents must comprehend the risks of distracted driving and what to do if it causes an accident. Because texting while driving is a type of negligence, anyone who causes harm to another driver’s person or property as a result of texting while driving is responsible for the victim’s damages.
Feller & Wendt, LLC, is staffed by legal professionals experienced in handling distracted driving accident negligence claims. For our clients, we have helped secure millions in settlements and case awards over our 30 years of combined experience. Anyone thinking about bringing a distracted driving case in Utah should get in touch with us right away. To arrange a free consultation, call our office at (801) 499-5060 or contact us online.