Utah has one of the toughest laws in the nation against texting while driving. It might cost up to $750 and three months in jail for anyone caught texting while driving in Utah.

Nov. 16-22 is the national Teens Don’t Text & Drive Week. Its goal is to raise awareness that texting while driving is dangerous. However, some students said they did not understand the message’s importance.

“I don’t think it is the big deal everyone makes it out to be,” said Rosie Bauer, a Weber State University student. “I text all the time.”

The University of Utah released a study in December 2009 which found that drivers who text are six times more likely to crash than those who don’t text while driving.

“I think it’s OK to text if you are good at it,” said WSU student Stan Flynn.

Research supports the fact that not everyone texts as well as they think they do. According to a study by Nationwide Insurance, 4 out of 10 drivers said they have been hit or nearly hit by drivers who are distracted by their cell phones.

WSU student David Lamb said he has been in near misses more than once because of distracted drivers.

“It is freaking dangerous,” he said. “Haven’t you ever been driving, and someone is swaying in and out of the lanes in front of you, and you turn to look, and it is some moron texting? It’s a big distraction.”

Other students said they agreed.

“I would never do it,” said WSU student Chris Ripplinger. “Texting while driving is more dangerous than drunk driving. People who text while driving are selfish. They are not thinking about other drivers on the road.”

According to the Transport Research Laboratory, “texting and driving is dangerous because it engages three of the primary degrees of attention needed to drive safely — the visual, manual and cognitive faculties. By distracting three of the four mental faculties, texting and driving becomes one of the most deadly activities a driver can engage in. In fact, it has been shown that texting while driving is the equivalent of operating a car with a blood alcohol level of .08 percent, a level that is illegal in Utah and as much as 10 times more likely to cause a crash.”

Utah law now punishes a driver who texts just as severely as it would a drunk driver who causes an accident.

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

According to the Kramer Law Group, driving while texting in Utah is now considered reckless behavior and opens the door for punitive damages against that person if somebody is injured.

Texting while driving in Utah is a Class C misdemeanor. If somebody causes an accident while texting, it is considered a Class B misdemeanor. However, if a person kills someone, the punishment can be up to 15 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

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