When the first mobile phones were introduced to consumers in the U.S., there were no laws on the books governing their use while driving. Today, 97% of Americans own a mobile phone, and drivers can be pulled over by law enforcement for texting and driving in 48 states.
The act of texting while driving is considered a form of distracted driving, and driving while distracted significantly increases the risk of causing an accident. Read on to learn about Utah laws and regulations on texting and driving, statistics regarding distracted driving, and potential penalties for driving while distracted.
Utah Legislation on Texting and Driving
Like in most other states, Utah explicitly forbids texting and driving. 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
- Writing, sending, or reading emails
- Dialing phone numbers
- Browsing the internet
- Watching or recording videos
- Entering data of any kind
However, 41-6a-1716 Subsection 3 also lists several actions and circumstances as exceptions. Under Utah law, you can perform the following actions legally:
- Make hands-free or voice-activated phone calls
- Use a GPS device, navigation app, or similar global positioning system
- Perform any of the prohibited actions IF you are requesting assistance for a medical emergency or reporting a safety hazard or criminal activity
Utah Distracted Driving Statistics
According to the state’s 2016 report, the most recent year for which data is available:
- 5,748 car crashes occurred due to distracted driving, representing approximately 9% of the whole year’s motor vehicle crashes.
- Over 54% of distracted driving accidents involve rear-end collisions.
- Distracted driving accidents caused 3,303 nonfatal injuries and 27 fatalities.
- The most common type of distraction is mobile phone usage, with 16% of distracted driving accidents, followed by passengers at 11%.
- The two most common distracted driver age groups are 15-19 and 20-24.
Penalties for Texting and Driving in Utah
Law enforcement officers in the Beehive State can pull drivers over for texting while driving even if they have not committed any other offenses. Utah Code 47-6a-1716 subsection 4 stipulates that texting while driving is a Class C misdemeanor when committed on its own by first-time offenders, punishable by a maximum fine of $100.
Repeat offenses or incidents resulting in serious bodily injuries turn the offense into a Class B misdemeanor. This charge can result in up to 6 months in jail and a maximum fine of $1,000. If a distracted driver kills another person while texting and driving, they may be charged with vehicular homicide. In Utah, vehicular homicide is a felony, punishable by up to 20 years in prison and $10,000 in fines.
However, when distracted drivers cause crashes and harm other people, they can also be held liable in civil court, not just criminal court. If you are not worried at the thought of a $100 fine for getting caught texting while driving, consider the fact that if you cause a crash and harm someone, you could be liable for tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical bills, lost wages, and more for the person you hurt.
What to do if You Are Involved in a Texting and Driving Accident
If you were involved in an accident with a distracted driver in Utah, contact a car accident attorney as soon as possible. This is the best way to protect your rights as the victim of an injury that wasn’t your fault. Utah uses a modified comparative fault doctrine that awards damages based on the percentage of fault each party holds for the accident. You will need to show you are less than 50% responsible for the accident to be able to win compensation.
The Utah car accident lawyers at Great West Injury Law can help you prove the other driver’s negligence and obtain evidence that their distracted driving caused the crash. They may look at evidence such as:
- Videos or photos from traffic cameras or witnesses
- The driver’s text message data obtained from their phone records
- Testimonies from witnesses
- The police report
- Medical records of your accident-related injuries
This evidence can help you win a fair settlement for injuries you incurred in the accident.
Seek the Help of Our Lawyers at Great West Injury Law
If a distracted driver injured you in a traffic accident in Utah, Great West Injury Law can help. Our highly skilled personal injury attorneys have years of experience handling motor vehicle accident cases just like yours. We can negotiate with the at-fault party’s insurance company on your behalf and will fight to obtain the maximum compensation for your injuries.
Contact us today for a free, no-obligation case consultation.