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Proposed state bill could spell the end of Idaho Falls’ hands-free driving ordinance

Politics

IDAHO FALLS — Weeks after law enforcement began enforcing Idaho Falls’ ban on cellphone use while driving, a local legislator introduced a bill to make the city ordinance illegal.

Freshman Representative Chad Christensen (R-Idaho Falls), introduced a proposed bill to the House Local Government Committee that would prohibit local governments from adding to the current statewide ban on texting while driving. If passed, the bill would outlaw the Idaho Falls and Pocatello hands-free driving ordinances.

“The problem is, we have all these citizens going across the state, and these traffic laws change from town to town, and people don’t know when these laws have changed. So I believe it’s a good thing to keep it congruent across the state and not confuse people,” Christensen told EastIdahoNews.com.

He said the Idaho Freedom Foundation wrote the bill and approached him to sponsor it.

RELATED: Idaho Falls police begin issuing warnings for cell phone use while driving

Idaho Falls City Councilman Jim Freeman said the bill would make it harder for local government to protect its citizens.

“We’ve had an overwhelmingly positive response to this as we’ve tried to make our streets safer. Our ordinance is simply a local jurisdiction trying to protect our community. This legislation would hinder our ability to do that in the future,” Freeman said.

Christensen explained he is concerned about government passing laws to prohibit any possible behavior while driving. He said Idaho already has an inattentive driving statute that allows law enforcement charge individuals with a misdemeanor if they believe they are driving inattentively.

“To me, what’s going to come next, eating while you’re in a car?” he said.

Idaho Falls Mayor Rebecca Casper said the information the city gathered supported hands-free driving ordinances.

“I believe we, as city officials, welcome another look at the issue. Whenever regulations are put in place that restrict freedoms, lawmakers must proceed with caution. In this case, every piece of research and all of the data our city council members examined unanimously endorsed these types of hands-free measures for improving public safety,” Casper said.

Christensen said the House Local Government Committee will re-examine the bill Wednesday and decide whether or not to send it to the House floor for a vote.

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