Bill description: HB 308 would restrict local governments’ ability to implement bans on the use of handheld devices while driving and create consistency on this matter across the state by replacing Idaho’s current law on texting-while-driving with an offense of distracted driving.
Does it directly or indirectly create or increase penalties for victimless crimes or non-restorative penalties for non- violent crimes? Conversely, does it eliminate or decrease penalties for victimless crimes or non-restorative penalties for non-violent crimes?
HB 308 would remove the State of Idaho’s current law on texting-while-driving. This law has largely gone unenforced ever since it was first established by the Legislature in 2012. Enforcement has been scarce because it is difficult for law enforcement to establish whether a driver’s contact with a phone was specifically for texting or for some other purpose.
The current penalty for violating the texting-while-driving statute is an infraction, which carries a fine of $81.50. This includes a fixed penalty of $25 and court costs and law enforcement fees totaling $56.50. This bill eliminates the infraction fee associated specifically with texting-while-driving.
However, the bill replaces the prohibition against texting-while-driving with one on distracted driving. Under this bill, it would be an infraction to operate “a moving or idling motor vehicle while engaging in an activity not related to the actual operation of the moving or idling motor vehicle.” Examples of distracted driving include using a handheld device, grooming, and eating food while operating a vehicle.
The distracted driving bill is written to carry the same penalty as a current texting-while-driving offense: An infraction, with a fine of $81.50. So this bill essentially keeps the fine unchanged, just attached to a new offense.
Several local governments in Idaho have enacted ordinances in recent years to prohibit drivers from using handheld devices. These municipalities include the cities of Ketchum, Hailey, Pocatello, Meridian, and Idaho Falls as well as Blaine County.
Each of these localities has passed differing ordinances, thus creating inconsistency across the state in what drivers can and cannot do while operating their vehicle. For instance, a driver can use a handheld device while idling at a stoplight in some cities, but not in others.
Additionally, different ordinances in different municipalities impose different fees for violations. And anyone who is pulled over multiple times in cities like Pocatello or Idaho Falls could be charged with a misdemeanor and sentenced with up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.
HB 308 would promote uniformity in traffic laws across the state, thus ensuring that travelers are not caught up in inconsistent laws and inconsistent penalties.