Idaho Senate passes distracted driving ban bill
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BOISE — The Idaho Senate resoundingly passed a bill banning cellphone use while driving.
The Senate voted 30 to five to pass SB 1314 on Feb. 25. The bill would institute a statewide ban on cellphone use while driving. The bill would also nullify any local laws or ordinances regarding cellphone use while driving, such as the Idaho Falls hands-free ordinance.
“This is a piece of legislation that may save your life or the life of your loved ones. It may save the life of your neighbor or your friend. I believe this truly is a lifesaving and life-changing bill,” Sen. Chuck Winder, R-Boise, one of the bill’s sponsors, said during a hearing on Feb. 25.
The bill prohibits cellphone use while driving but does provide some exceptions. Using a cellphone in a hands-free mode would be allowed, as would making and receiving phone calls if it could but done with one touch or voice command.
Using a cellphone’s GPS would also be allowed.
“We’re not talking about the dog in the lap or eating french fries or anything like that. We’re talking about the unsafe use of a handheld cellphone,” Winder said.
The bill exempts emergency responders, law enforcement and utility workers as long as their cellphone use is for responding to a utility emergency.
“The current texting and driving laws simply do not encompass the vast amounts of device usage that is happening on our roadways. Emailing, social media, streaming and other device enhancements are not being addressed in the current laws.” Sen. Cherie Buckner-Webb, D-Boise, said, according to a news release from the Idaho Joint Democratic Caucus.
If passed, the bill would turn texting and driving into an infraction, carrying with it a $75 fine for a first offense. Fines jump up to $150 for a second offense within three years, and every offense after that, within three years, goes up to $300.
Rep. Joe Palmer, R-Meridian, introduced a similar bill in January that would have prevented local governments from creating any laws or ordinances pertaining to cellphone use while driving. That bill has remained in the House Transportation and Defense Committee since it was introduced.
SB 1314 now goes to the House Transportation and Defense Committee for debate. If it goes to the House floor and is passed, it will go to the Governor to await his signature.