Gov. Butch Otter signed the Legislature’s distracted driving measure April 5. The distracted driving law will receive primary enforcement — police can stop and cite offenders for that reason alone — but offenses are not moving violations. Also, there are no points assessed against the driver’s license.
The fine for texting & driving in Idaho will be $85.
Idaho became the 37th state to outlaw text messaging while driving, following West Virginia by only two days.
West Virginia also banned use of handheld cell phones while driving, but in Idaho a similar plan (from the Senate) was ignored during the legislative session, which officially ended March 29.
A few legislators pointed out that the new law did not adequately cover current technologies.
The successful Senate Bill 1274 focused on texting alone — reading, writing, transmitting — without mention of the many potentially distracted computer functions offered by smartphones such as the iPhone.
House sponsor Rep. Judy Ellsworth, R-Boise, replied during debate: “I do know that teenagers know what texting is, and I believe that this bill will send that message to them.”
Idaho’s Legislature had rejected all distracted driving legislation until now — with infringements on personal liberties often cited — but lawmakers acknowledged that public sentiment has changed.
The death of an 18-year-old Caldwell woman early in the year weighed on the debate. She was texting extensively before rear-ending a semi-trailer truck, and also receiving Facebook communications, police reported. Taylor Sauer’s parents became distracted driving activists.
A AAA Idaho survey of state voters found 87 percent in support of a statewide ban on texting while driving.
Also in 2012, state Sen. Les Bock proposed a prohibition on use of handheld cell phones by all drivers, but that bill failed to advance.
Read the Idaho distracted driving news page.