Utah's Distracted Driving Law: Talking on the Phone and Texting While Driving

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

Unlike many other states, Utah doesn't restrict all cell phone and wireless device use while driving. This article gives an overview of Utah's distracted driving law, including what it prohibits and the penalties for violations.

Utah essentially has a hands-free law for using a cell phone while driving. So long as a driver is using hands-free technology, talking on a cell phone while operating a vehicle is perfectly legal.

However, Utah's distracted driving law explicitly prohibits drivers from dialing a phone number while operating a vehicle.

Texting and Electronic Device Use While Driving in Utah

Under Utah law, motorists are generally prohibited from using a cell phone 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:

  • accessing the Internet
  • viewing or recording a video, and
  • entering data into a handheld wireless device.

Also, as previously noted, drivers aren't allowed to dial phone numbers while operating a vehicle.

What Qualifies as a "Wireless Device" Under Utah's Distracted Driving Law?

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.

What Are the Exceptions to Utah's Distracted Driving Restrictions?

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, or
  • law enforcement and emergency personnel acting within the course and scope of employment.

But remember, as to the first exception, dialing a phone number is prohibited under Utah's distracted driving laws.

How Police Enforce Utah's Distracted Driving Laws

Some traffic violations are considered "secondary" violations. Police don't have the authority to stop vehicles for secondary violations, though they can cite a driver for a secondary violation if there is some other valid reason for the stop.

In some states, distracted driving is a secondary violation, However, 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.

Fines, Jail, License Suspension, & Points for Distracted Driving in Utah

The consequences of a distracted driving 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 of $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 of 20 years in prison.

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.

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