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Utah Legislature: Teen cell phone bill drives up and down road

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah senators could be accused of driving erratically.

Just a day after approving a bill that would ban teens from using cell phones while driving, the Utah Senate voted down a revised version of the bill — then brought it back again, for a third final vote.

The bill's sponsor, Sen. Ross Romero, D-Salt Lake, reintroduced (SB113 ) in the Senate in order to change the violation from a primary to secondary offense.

Romero amended his bill to appease critics in the House, but the change was not enough for Senate Republicans who said the bill limits individual freedoms.

"What I can't justify is the creep," Sen. Chris Buttars, R-West Jordan said. "What's next? You can't even change the radio station?"

Supporters of the legislation said it would reduce the number and severity of car accidents across the state.

Sen. Luz Robles, D-Salt Lake, said studies prove the danger of using cell phones while driving and the bill would save young lives.

"This is about … creating a culture of safety," she said.

Several Senate Republicans switched their votes after their colleagues said the measure was too much government control.

Later Thursday afternoon, Sen. Curt Bramble, R-Provo, who voted against the bill, brought the legislation back to life for another vote.

Romero said because the violation would be a secondary offense, a teen could only be cited for using a phone if he or she were caught doing something else illegal. There is also an exception for emergencies.

The bill is now up for debate and another vote in the Senate.

e-mail: jsmith@desnews.com