SALT LAKE CITY -- Teenagers in Utah would be barred from talking on cellphones while driving under a bill the state Senate passed Tuesday.
The law would apply to 16- and 17-year-olds, an age group that has a higher rate of accidents, said Senate Minority Leader Ross Romero, D-Salt Lake City, who is sponsoring the measure. A citation would result in a $50 fine.
Romero said the bill is meant as a way to prevent accidents and help parents set boundaries.
"If they don't listen to the parent, they will have reinforcement that it is against the law," Romero said.
The legislation, Senate Bill 128, passed the Senate 19-9. It now moves to House, where it failed last year.
Romero said he remained optimistic about the bill's chance this year. To help assuage some concerns, he amended the bill to allow teen drivers to use cellphones for playing music or navigation.
"The voices of the community are really speaking out," Romero said after the bill passed the Senate. "It seems to have attracted a lot of people's attention."
Opponents of the bill argue that it is unnecessary because of other laws, including a ban on text messaging while driving and prohibitions on distracted driving.
"It's already illegal to text while you drive, no matter what age you are. It's illegal to drive distracted, no matter what age you are," said Sen. John Valentine, R-Orem. "Those are enforceable with clear, demarcated lines. This is unenforceable and unclear."
Other senators argued the bill was important to protect all drivers.
"It's not only about teenagers who are driving, it's about everyone sharing the road with them," said Sen. Luz Robles, D-Salt Lake City.