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More tickets, but also more crashes, in 3 years of stiffer distracted driving law

More tickets, but also more crashes, in 3 years of stiffer distracted driving law (Photo: KUTV)

(KUTV) We were not on the road so much as five minutes with Utah Highway Patrol Lieutenant Jeff Nigbur before we spotted somebody barreling down the freeway, dangerously swerving back-and-forth in his lane.

The guy behind the wheel was not a drunk. He was playing on his phone.

Minutes later, we spotted another texter behind the wheel while hauling a speedboat three times the size of his truck.

At a glance, distracted appear to remain a problem on Utah roads despite the fact that, three years ago, the Utah legislature decided to crack down, joining a slew of other states stiffening up distracted driving laws.

The statistics back up our observations.

Get Gephardt investigated, obtaining citation records for both the years before the law went into effect as well as the years since. The number of people getting tickets has skyrocketed. In 2013, a mere 703 tickets were written for distracted driving. Last year, 3,561 were written, a 407 percent increase.

Tragically, that is not the only number that is up. Records for distracted driving crashes show that in 2013, there were just over 5,000 crashes. In 2015, there were 5,850 recorded with Utah's Department of Public Safety.

The number of deadly crashes have also increased. Last year, 21 people were killed by distracted drivers, despite the law.

Despite what thus far seems to be meager effectiveness saving lives, those responsible for keeping traffic moving safely say they still celebrate the law.

“Everybody took a second look at themselves to what they do behind the wheel so I thought that was fantastic," Nigbur said.

Still, troopers wish people would take the consequences of distracted driving more seriously. Don't hold your phone down low to avoid being a part of the citation statistic, put your phone away to avoid adding to the far more tragic stats.

"Concentrate on driving. Focus on driving. Ultimately it could save your life or the life of another," Nigbur said.

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