Utah’s Cellphone-Use and Text-Messaging-While-Driving Laws

Learn about Utah’s distracted driving laws and the penalties for a violation.

Unlike many other states, Utah doesn’t restrict all cellphone and wireless device use while driving. Utah drivers are generally allowed to talk on a cellphone. But most text-based communications using a cellphone or wireless device are prohibited.

This article gives an overview of what Utah’s distracted driving law covers and the consequences of a violation.

Texting and Related Device Use

Under Utah law, motorists are generally prohibited from using a cellphone or other handheld wireless device to write, send, or read a written communication, including:

  • text messages
  • instant messages, and
  • email.

The law also bans drivers from:

  • dialing a phone number
  • accessing the Internet
  • viewing or recording a video, and
  • entering data include a handheld wireless device.

Included wireless devices. Utah’s distracted driving law applies to wireless telephones, text messaging devices, laptops, and all substantially similar devices. However, the law doesn’t prohibit using GPS devices or systems that are “physically or electronically integrated” into the vehicle.

Exceptions. Utah’s text-messaging law contains a number of exceptions. The prohibition doesn’t apply to:

  • voice communications (including voice-operated technologies)
  • communications related to emergencies or reporting criminal activity,
  • law enforcement and emergency personnel acting within the course and scope of employment.

(Utah Code Ann. § 41-6a-1716 (2017).)

Enforcement and Penalties

Utah’s distracted driving statute is considered a “primary” law—meaning an officer who spots a violation can stop the driver without having another reason for doing so. The consequences of a violation depend on the circumstances. But generally, the possible penalties are:

  • Standard first offense. Generally, a first distracted driving violation is a class C misdemeanor and carries a maximum fine of $100.
  • Repeat offense and injuries. Where a motorist has a prior distracted driving conviction within the past three years or the current offense involves “serious bodily injury” to another person, the offense is a class B misdemeanor. A conviction carries up to six months in jail and a maximum $1,000 in fines.
  • Offenses involving deaths. If a distracted driving offense leads to the death of another person, the driver can be convicted of automobile homicide, a second or third degree felony. Depending on the circumstances, a conviction carries up to $10,000 in fines and a maximum 20 years in prison. (Read more about Utah’s automobile homicide laws.)

Generally, a judge can (but isn’t required to) suspend a motorist’s license for up three months for a distracted driving violation.  And a distracted driving conviction will add 50 points to the motorist’s driving record. Typically, accumulating 200 or more points within a three-year period can lead to license suspension.

(Utah Code Ann. §§ 41-6a-1716, 53-3-218, 76-3-204, 76-3-301 (2017); Utah Admin. Code r. R708-3 (2017).)

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