New texting bill features wider scope, would rely on driver honor for citations
Rep. Marv Hagedorn, R-Meridian, has been working on a bill to ban texting-while-driving in the Gem State since two bills to do just that failed in early 2010.
His day came Wednesday as the House Judiciary Committee voted unanimously to introduce his bill.
Hagedorn’s bill wouldn’t strictly prohibit texting while driving, but would instead outlaw any distracted driving caused by any electronic devices. That prohibition could include cell phones, Ipods, GPS navigation devices, and even electronic cigarettes if they cause dangerous driving.
The law would rely heavily on driver honor to get citations. Hagedorn told IdahoReporter.com that law enforcement officials would need admission of use of electronic devices in order to hand out a distracted driving ticket.
Certain actions on electronic devices would be exempt from the ban. Hagedorn said that drivers using mobile devices to activate hands-free phone call features could not be cited for distracted driving. Additionally, those using phones to engage voice-texting features could not be cited by police officers.
Idaho already has a law against inattentive driving, which is a misdemeanor. Hagedorn told panel members that the new law is only an infraction, which can be handled without a drawn-out court appearance. “We would fill the courts up with misdemeanors,” said Hagedorn. His law would prevent law enforcement officers from needing to appear in court proceedings against alleged offenders.
The language of the bill might allow for Idaho drivers to use electronic devices while driving, as long as they do so safely. Text of the legislation says that activities on handheld devices must cause a driver “to be distracted or otherwise fail to exercise due care.” Hagedorn said that officers would need to observe behavior associated with distracted driving in order to make a formal stop.
The fine for distracted driving would be $75.
State lawmakers killed two pieces of legislation to ban texting behind the wheel in the 2010 legislative session. One bill, proposed by Sen. John McGee, R-Caldwell, would have banned texting and made it a misdemeanor. Another ban would have made texting an infraction, but members of the Idaho House refused to pass the measure because they felt it would be unenforceable.
Sen. Les Bock, D-Boise, has already proposed one texting ban in the Senate, though it appears unlikely the measure will gain much traction.
Two cities – Meridian and Twin Falls, instituted texting bans after the Legislature failed to do so last year.
Note: Read a draft of Hagedorn’s legislation here.