Idaho drivers may soon have to stop typing with their thumbs while behind the wheel. State lawmakers appear to be gathering around a proposed ban on texting while driving that would result in a sizable fine. A proposed texting ban died in committee earlier this year, but both Republican and Democratic transportation leaders say the ban could pass and go into effect next July.
Caldwell Republican John McGee leads the Senate Transportation committee that stalled a texting ban, but he said he supports the plan for next year. “They passed a similar bill in Utah just last year,” McGee said. Eighteen other states, including Oregon and Washington, also have bans and fines in place. McGee says he isn’t sure how large a fine drivers would face if police catch them sending text messages. Utah’s law gives drivers a $70 ticket.
Democratic Senator Les Bock of Boise sponsored the legislation last legislative session. He said he will put forward the same plan, which carries a $75 fine, next year. Texting while driving would also be a primary traffic offense, meaning officers could pull over a driver and issue a ticket for that offense alone. Bock said a texting ban probably won’t apply to GPS and navigation systems. “What some people are beginning to feel is that this is a reasonable law to put into effect and there is some political pressure actually to put it into effect,” Bock said. “We’re going to be working closely with [Republicans] to come up with a bill that everyone can live with.”
Bock wants to take it a step further and ban talking on cell phones while driving, but he said that probably won’t happen soon in Idaho. “I think we may get there eventually as these laws become more prevalent nationwide,” Bock said. “So far we have not had the enthusiasm.”
A study released this summer showed that texting while driving increases the risk of car crashes. That study out of Virginia Tech looked at truck drivers who text behind the wheel, but researchers say the findings apply to all drivers. A Nampa man made headlines in April after he crashed his car into a police cruiser while texting.
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