Texting and driving ban will save countless lives

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

A state law signed this month will soon make it illegal for drivers to use text devices while they're behind the wheel. Scheduled to take effect July 1, the amendments to state law signed by Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter makes Idaho the 37th state to enact a texting-while-driving ban.

Simply put, it prohibits drivers from sending or answering text messages. However, it still allows them to use a hands-free device to chat. Ultimately, the law aims to improve safety by preventing people from becoming distracted by these electronic diversions.

It was a law that was long overdue in this state. Ironically, a similar measure before the state legislature two years ago failed to pass despite a majority of support from Idaho lawmakers. The reason? A procedural move in the Idaho House of Representatives introduced at the last minute required a two-thirds majority vote for it to pass.

This new law will take affect nearly six months after a Caldwell teenager died during a three-vehicle crash on the interstate just east of Mountain Home. According to a final report issued by the Idaho State Police, Taylor Sauer was using her cell phone to either send or receive a text message shortly before her car collided with a semi.

We're hoping this new law will prevent similar, avoidable deaths from happening on our roads and highways.

Here's some additional food for thought. A report originally published by Car and Driver Magazine indicates that texting and driving is actually more dangerous than driving while under the influence of alcohol -- an equally bad idea.

During a test at a set speed of 35 miles per hour, the reaction time of impaired drivers was about a half second off. This meant it took them an average of four extra feet to stop their vehicle.

But when the same people tried to send or read a text message while sober, their reaction times deteriorated. Sending a text message slowed their reaction time by more than a second on average, meaning they traveled an extra 22 feet before they stopped their vehicle. Reading a message on a cell phone increased that reaction delay by 1 1/2 seconds.

Average reactions for those traveling at highway speeds during this test seemed slightly better. However, those slightly better times were offset by the additional distance these vehicles traveled before they stopped. Throw in some actual highway traffic in front or behind somebody trying to text and drive, and the danger becomes abundantly clear.

Simply put, there's nothing in the world so important that people have to put their lives -- and the lives of others on the road -- for the convenience that texting has to offer. If the message is really that important, it's worth pulling off to the side of the road to deal with it.

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With the May primary elections just 20 days away, the staff at the Mountain Home News reminds people that letters of endorsement for our county, state and federal candidates are due by 5 p.m. Monday. This is the last chance for folks to throw their support behind the candidates they want to see move ahead to the general election this November.

Here's a word of warning. It's a long-standing policy at the Mountain Home News to set a deadline for those wanting to raise issues with the other candidates running for office. Simply put, the newspaper always gives candidates a chance to respond to criticism or concerns raised by local voters with those rebuttals running two weeks before the election.

That deadline came and went. Anyone that really wanted to raise concerns with certain candidates should've done that two weeks ago -- or three or four weeks ago for that matter.

In fact, only one person to date has submitted a letter supporting their candidate for office.

Here's the bottom line: If you want a certain candidate to win, now's the time to tell our readers the reasons why you support them. Simply bring your letter to our office at 195 South 3rd East Street, and we'll do the rest.

-- Brian S. Orban