Utah Punishes Texting While Driving with Prison Sentence

Posted by on August 30, 2009 at 5:14 am.

Utah’s law forbidding texting while driving went into effect July 1, 2009, and the punishment for violating the law is the harshest in the country – up to 15 years in prison for offenders. Utah has taken the stance that all drivers are now educated enough about the dangers of texting while driving to classify any such behavior as reckless or negligent driving:

“It’s a willful act,” said Lyle Hillyard, a Republican state senator and a big supporter of the new measure. “If you choose to drink and drive or if you choose to text and drive, you’re assuming the same risk.”

The law and it’s severity are believed to have been so well supported because of an accident that occurred three years ago, and resulted in the deaths of 2 scientists:

Reggie Shaw, a 19-year-old college student working as a house painter, was driving west to work in a Chevrolet Tahoe S.U.V. Approaching him, in a Saturn sedan, was James Furaro, 38, and his passenger, Keith P. O’Dell, 50. The senior scientists were commuting to ATK Launch Systems, where they were helping to design and build rocket boosters.

Mr. Shaw crossed the yellow dividing line on the two-lane road and clipped the Saturn. It spun across the highway and was struck by a pickup truck hauling a trailer filled with two tons of horseshoes and related equipment.

The two scientists were killed instantly.

…a witness told the police he had seen Mr. Shaw swerving several times just before the accident, raising Mr. Rindlisbacher’s suspicions. The trooper’s concerns grew as he drove Mr. Shaw to the hospital. He saw Mr. Shaw, in the passenger seat, pull out his phone and start texting.“Were you texting while you were driving?” Mr. Rindlisbacher recalled asking.

“No,” he recalled Mr. Shaw responding. (Mr. Shaw said he did not remember the conversation or much about the accident.)

The trooper was deeply skeptical. He figured out how to subpoena Mr. Shaw’s phone records. Six months later, with help from a state public safety investigator, they got the records and their proof: Mr. Shaw and his girlfriend had sent 11 text messages to each other in the 30 minutes before the crash, the last one at 6:47 a.m., a minute before Mr. Shaw called 911. Investigators concluded he sent that last text when he crossed the yellow line.

Read the full article here.

Leave a Reply