After weeks of hearing testimony, going through the amending order and listening to strong debate in both the Senate and House, Senate Bill 1274, which would make texting while driving illegal, passed the Senate on Friday on a 29-5 vote.
It passed with little fanfare, as legislators have heard the arguments from both sides for weeks. The bill now heads to Gov. Butch Otter for his consideration.
Sen. Les Bock, D-Boise, was happy to see the bill pass and said it’s something he’s been working on for a long time. “I've been working on this bill for many years and we finally have a bill that I think is probably the best that has come along. I regret that we do not have the points aspect in the bill, but all things considered, after all the labors that we've put into this issue, I think this is a reasonably good bill, and I urge your aye vote.”
Sen. Tim Corder, R-Mountain Home, was also happy to see the bill passed, though he did say that “This will be difficult to implement, this will be difficult to enforce, so it's still gong to be up to people to not use those things.”
During the past three years, lawmakers have tried unsuccessfully to pass legislation dealing with texting while driving. The current bill, authored by Sen. Jim Hammond, R-Coeur d’Alene, aimed to simplify the language and to clearly define what texting while driving is. Those were problems with bills in past years, according to Hammond.
Proponents say the bill defines what a simple definition of texting is, one that is easy for law enforcement to apply. Texting is defined as, “Engaging in the review of, or manual preparation and transmission of, written communications via handheld wireless devices.”
Those in favor of the bill say it’s a dangerous thing to do, and that by clearly showing that it is against the law, people are less likely to do it.
But opponents of the bill pointed to vagueness in the legislation about texting, including whether checking applications, such as Facebook, would count as texting while driving. They have also noted that there are other forms of distractions besides texting that could be addressed, so why single out one particular distraction.
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