New teen drivers still can’t have friends in car after Utah bill fails

Feb 29, 2024, 5:17 PM

A proposed bill, HB351, would allow teen drivers to have a single friend in the car, which Utah's s...

A proposed bill, HB351, would allow teen drivers to have a single friend in the car, which Utah's safety campaign doubles the risk of a crash. (Eddie Collins, KSL TV)

(Eddie Collins, KSL TV)

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah Senate Democrats scored a rare legislative victory this week when they defeated a bill loosening the law for new young drivers.

Currently, Utah law prohibits 16- and 17-year-old drivers from having any friends in the vehicle during the six months after receiving a driver’s license.

Utah law prohibiting new drivers from having friends in car could soon change

HB351, sponsored by Rep. Kera Birkeland, R-Morgan, would have changed that, allowing them to drive with one friend.

But in a 2-2 party-line vote, the Senate Transportation, Public Utilities, Energy, and Technology Committee refused to advance the bill to the full Senate, after it had previously passed the House of Representatives.

Sen. Karen Kwan, D-Murray, and Sen. Kathleen Riebe, D-Cottonwood Heights, cast the deciding votes against the bill. Two Republicans, Sen. Heidi Balderree, R-Saratoga Springs, and Sen. Wayne Harper, R-Taylorsville, voted in favor of it.

Three other Republican lawmakers on the committee were absent for the vote, which could have changed the outcome. Republicans hold a supermajority in both the Utah House and Senate.

Birkeland previously told KSL TV she got the idea for the bill after her daughter was pulled over and cited for having friends in the vehicle soon after receiving her license.

“It’s very common – especially in rural communities when your kid’s going to drive a half hour or hour into a city to carpool – to have them ride together,” Birkeland said earlier this month. “I know, as a mom, I don’t want my 16-year-old driving at night by herself.”

Birkland echoed those points during the Senate committee hearing Tuesday. But Riebe pushed back.

“This seems irresponsible to send our kids out on the highway with people in their car,” Riebe said. “There’s science that shows that this is not good for kids to be distracted.”

Utah’s Zero Fatalities campaign warns the risk of a crash doubles with even just one friend in the car.

However, Utah Highway Patrol Col. Michael Rapich previously noted, Birkeland’s proposal still fell within national standards for best practices by allowing new drivers to have “no more than one” friend in the vehicle.

Birkeland did not immediately respond to a request for comment about her future plans on this issue.

KSL 5 TV Live

Local News

(Photo courtesy: Brady Quan)...

Andrew Adams

Video shows SUV pushing parked car across street, into Orem house

Neighbors say the homeowners avoided injury Wednesday in a car-versus-house ordeal that surveillance video showed happened when an SUV pulled up behind a parked car and then pushed it across the street.

1 minute ago

three firefighters stand in the demolished remains of what was a house...

Lauren Steinbrecher

Holladay neighbors assess damage, begin cleanup after dynamite detonation

Neighbors in Holladay are figuring out what it’ll take to clean up and who’s paying for the damage, after a massive home explosion with planned dynamite detonation

8 hours ago

You’ve likely noticed a growing number of businesses that have gone completely cashless. When it ...

Matt Gephardt

Businesses are passing their credit card fees onto customers, what can you do?

You’ve likely noticed a growing number of businesses that have gone completely cashless. When it comes time to pay, it’ll involve a tap, swipe or maybe a click on an app. It's a phenomenon that is contributing to the price we pay for goods and services.

9 hours ago

Juan Diego Catholic High Principal Galey Colosimo speaks to the Utah High School Activities Associa...

Amy Donaldson, KSL Podcasts

Big changes proposed for Utah high school sports involving local, international students

Some massive changes could be coming to high school sports in Utah.

9 hours ago

$20 bills...

Larry D. Curtis

Ring customers getting millions sent after suit by FTC

The Federal Trade Commission is sending millions of dollars to people who had an account with Ring, a home security camera company, through PayPal.

10 hours ago

A yellow plastic police line, blocking off a scene, and showing a blurred police car in the backgro...

Pat Reavy, KSL.com

Cause of Parowan teacher’s death ‘undetermined’

A recently completed report by the Utah State Medical Examiner's Office could not come up with a conclusive manner of death for a Parowan teacher who died in December.

11 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Women hold card for scanning key card to access Photocopier Security system concept...

Les Olson

Why Printer Security Should Be Top of Mind for Your Business

Connected printers have vulnerable endpoints that are an easy target for cyber thieves. Protect your business with these tips.

Modern chandelier hanging from a white slanted ceiling with windows in the backgruond...

Lighting Design

Light Up Your Home With These Top Lighting Trends for 2024

Check out the latest lighting design trends for 2024 and tips on how you can incorporate them into your home.

Technician woman fixing hardware of desktop computer. Close up....

PC Laptops

Tips for Hassle-Free Computer Repairs

Experiencing a glitch in your computer can be frustrating, but with these tips you can have your computer repaired without the stress.

Close up of finger on keyboard button with number 11 logo...

PC Laptops

7 Reasons Why You Should Upgrade Your Laptop to Windows 11

Explore the benefits of upgrading to Windows 11 for a smoother, more secure, and feature-packed computing experience.

Stylish room interior with beautiful Christmas tree and decorative fireplace...

Lighting Design

Create a Festive Home with Our Easy-to-Follow Holiday Prep Guide

Get ready for festive celebrations! Discover expert tips to prepare your home for the holidays, creating a warm and welcoming atmosphere for unforgettable moments.

Battery low message on mobile device screen. Internet and technology concept...

PC Laptops

9 Tips to Get More Power Out of Your Laptop Battery

Get more power out of your laptop battery and help it last longer by implementing some of these tips from our guide.

New teen drivers still can’t have friends in car after Utah bill fails