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Senate committee approves consideration of bill to ban texting while driving

Senate committee approves consideration of bill to ban texting while driving

Mitch Coffman
January 31, 2012
January 31, 2012

Sen. Jim Hammond, R-Coeur d’Alene, Tuesday introduced legislation that would add a new section to Idaho Code, providing infractions for texting while driving. This is the second bill that has been introduced on texting while driving. Another bill, by Sen. Elliot Werk, D-Boise, was proposed last week.

The Hammond bill, which received unanimous approval by the Senate Transportation Committee, will be assigned a bill number and then a hearing can be scheduled for consideration of the measure. Sen. Patti Ann Lodge, R-Huston, chairwoman of the Senate Health and Welfare Committee, is a co-sponsor of the legislation. Hammond is chairman of the transportation committee in the Senate.

Hammond said the issue of texting while driving has become a concern among the public, which 10 years ago wasn’t even an issue. “It’s fine to text,” said Hammond, “but it’s not fine to drive and text at the same time. It’s quite a danger.”

During both the 2010 and 2011 legislative sessions there were a number of attempts to pass a law about texting while driving, but, according to Hammond, they (legislators) have “gotten hung up over issues of language and enforcement. The attempt with this bill is to make it very straightforward and very simple to understand. The bill defines what texting is, and the bill says that if you are driving and texting, that is an infraction and if you are caught you will be cited and fined … it’s that simple and straightforward.”

Sen. Diane Bilyeu, D-Pocatello, said that even though the state has an inattentive driving statute—which many have argued in the past would cover texting while driving—there is a need for this legislation. “I do think that this sends a very strong message that texting is not to be allowed in Idaho when driving.”

While research is often cited showing that texting while driving increases likeliness of accidents, the Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI), an affiliate of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), said in 2010 that studies from states that have banned texting do not show a decrease in accidents. In fact, in three of the four states studied, the accident rate actually increased. Adrian Lund, president of both HLDI and IIHS, said that the findings “call into question the way policymakers are trying to address the problem of distracted driving crashes.”

Lund added that, “They’re (policymakers) focusing on a single manifestation (texting) of distracted driving and banning it. This ignores the endless sources of distraction and relies on banning one source or another to solve the whole problem.”

Erik Makrush, policy analyst for the Idaho Freedom Foundation, agrees with Lund. “We already have laws in the books with inattentive driving. We should just enforce those laws if we really want to deal with this issue. It’s (texting while driving) a lifestyle issue, and just having a law singling out one action won’t do much. What’s next? No more coffee drinking, lighting a cigarette, changing the radio station.”

Note: IdahoReporter.com is published by the Idaho Freedom Foundation.

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