NO THERE SHOULDN'T!
We do NOT need more laws...especially not dumb ones, unclear ones, ineffective ones, senseless ones, or ones that erode our liberty and lead us down the slippery slope to a police state.
And the new Utah "distracted driving" law that takes effect tomorrow is all of the above, and worse.
You can read about it in this horribly-written Deseret News article.
[Side note: what is the deal with the Deseret News? Their journalism standards have taken a precipitous nosedive lately. Not only do they constantly push an annoying agenda that matches the likes of CNN, MSNBC, and the NYT, but it seems that most of their articles are now being written by barely-literate college interns. Case in point: the linked article contains contradictory information, a lousy interview, zero opposing viewpoint, and several misspellings (such as "your" instead of "you're" twice). Maybe there's some connection between the new editorial slant and the infantile grammar - after all, we know what kinds of citizens academia is cranking out these days...]
Anyway...as I was saying.
Here are a few reasons the new law is atrocious:
1) If you're going to enact a totalitarian, liberty-eradicating, nanny-state law - at least do it right. This law allows a host of activities that are equally as "dangerous" as the ones it ostensibly prohibits. If you want to really clamp down on freedom with an iron fist of tyranny, why not just outlaw any and all use of mobile devices in vehicles? [Note: I am in no way suggesting that is the right thing to do, only that it makes more sense than this law if you really do want to *try* to control people.]
2) All of the activities (allowed and disallowed) by this law look exactly the same to any observer (especially those who will be enforcing the law). Thus, you can be certain that, as a result of this stupid law, you will be pulled over for doing absolutely nothing wrong or illegal.
3) How does that play out? Let's say you're using your phone and you get pulled over. The officer will ask you what you were doing on your phone.
A) You were using GPS - which is still legal - and you tell him that. The officer either has to believe you and send you on your way (no doubt with a huge apology for wasting your time - NOT!), or he calls you a liar and confiscates your cell phone as evidence under probable cause jurisprudence. Now you have 4th and 5th Amendment issues.
B) You were in fact texting (shock, horror!) but you decide to lie and say you were using GPS. The officer either has to believe you and send you on your way, or call you a liar and confiscate your cell phone as evidence under probable cause jurisprudence. Now you have 4th and 5th Amendment issues.
Hmm. Can you spot the difference? Didn't think so. Now, simply having a cell phone with you, and using it in any manner, will have the de facto result of ticketing and/or confiscation (or the unlikely opposite of no enforcement at all). Or some random combination of the two that has nothing to do with consistency, law, order, safety or liberty.
4) This law is legislative overkill if ever there was such a thing. It addresses a virtually non-existent problem that has been hyped to the extreme by people with an agenda who care nothing for facts.
Let's take a look at the facts, shall we?
Here's a look at the causes of crashes in Utah:
Property damage only, or "PDO" crashes:
Caused by texting = 0.0006% (23 total)
Caused by cell phone (other) = 1.2%
Caused by texting = 0.0008% (14 total)
Caused by cell phone (other) = 1.7%
Caused by texting = 0.01% (2 total)
Caused by cell phone (other) = 1.5%
All data for 2012, from the Utah Department of Public Safety.
That's correct: other causes unrelated to the use of mobile devices account for 98.6% of all of the 50,600 crashes in 2012. Take note: 99.9992% of accidents are NOT caused by texting. The "problem" this law addresses is not a problem. It's barely a statistical blip on the radar. Facts matter.
Put it another way: of all distraction-related crashes, cell phone use accounts for only 5.0% of those "distracted driving" crashes, with texting specifically only accounting for 0.36% - that is less than one percent - of ALL the distracted-driving crashes. This means that other passengers, the radio, eating, applying makeup, etc. - all massively outnumber texting or other cell phone use as a cause of distracted driving crashes. For example, the radio causes 8.3 times more distracted driving accidents than does texting. Where's the outrage? Why no bans on radio use in the car?
I've not been involved in a reportable traffic accident in over 28 years of driving. Do I use my cell phone on the road? Of course I do. Responsible drivers, those who know their abilities and limits, and who are doing nothing wrong, should not be penalized by this ridiculous law. This law will not do anything to increase road safety, because cell phones and texting are not the problem.
However, what this law will accomplish is getting everyone used to the idea that there's "nothing wrong" with regularly pulling over and harassing law-abiding citizens, on the pretense of "public safety."
It's another brainless baby-step toward tyranny and I do not like it. Playing on fears of a non-existent epidemic in order to impose Draconian restrictions on the citizenry is not the job of our lawmakers. Shame on you, Utah legislature.
UPDATE: In fairness to those who represent me...in the House, Rep. Curt Oda did vote against this law, and in the Senate, Sen. Jerry Stevenson did not vote (absent). So, I have no one to whom I can complain. But to the rest of the legislature: I am disgusted.