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Opinion: Crash changed my mind on cellphones and driving

This is an editorial piece. An editorial, like a news article, is based on fact but also shares opinions. The opinions expressed here are solely those of the author and are not associated with our newsroom. 

SALT LAKE CITY — I was undecided about a bill to prohibit the use of cellphones while driving. The bill is up for a vote in the state legislature. As a conservative, I draw the line about the government reaching into my car and limiting what I can and can’t do while I drive.

But that changed on my walk to work today.

Leaving my residence, I witnessed a driver holding up a cellphone.

I swear, not three seconds later — BOOM!

The distracted driver had run a red light and T-boned another car. A city bus had to swerve to miss the collision.

The crash was a lot louder than any car collision I’ve ever heard on TV. Both cars rolled off the street and stopped.

The drivers were shaken up but seemed OK.

Police and emergency vehicles rolled up.

Lawmakers’ bill

Democratic Rep. Carol Spackman Moss of Holladay and Republican Sen. Don Ipson of St. George are sponsoring a bill  (HB101) that would allow police to cite a driver using a cellphone unless the driver is talking on a hands-free device.

Talking and texting on cellphones while driving has been illegal in Utah for years. But police can’t pull a driver over for cellphone chatting unless another moving violation (other than speeding) has been committed at the same time. For example, a driver talking on a phone makes an illegal U-turn. Only then, can the cop hit the lights and sirens and issue two tickets: one for the U-turn, the other for yakking on a cellphone while riding two tons of steel, glass and rubber down the highway.

Texting while driving is a primary offense. Drivers under 18 are banned from cellphone use.

A conservative’s view

Conservatives like me believe in the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness and strongly oppose government from infringing on personal freedoms. But it is only right for law enforcement to be involved if those rights are infringed upon by another, such as a distracted driver with a phone, which is what I witnessed on my walk to work.

The law-abiding driver who had his car caved in could have been seriously injured or even killed. The government is mandated to try to prevent this stupidity from happening — and not make it conditional on a secondary offense, which it is now. That’s gotta change.

The House Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Committee passed Moss and Ipson’s bill last week with a favorable recommendation of 6-2, sending it to the House floor to decide its fate.

The last time I met with Rep. Moss I told her I was still unclear about my position on her bill, but after what I saw this morning, I’m hoping it becomes law — before another innocent person is needlessly harmed or killed.

Live Mic with Lee Lonsberry can be heard weekdays from 12:30 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. on KSL NewsRadio. Users can find the show on the KSL NewsRadio website and app.