The bill signed by Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter in April made Idaho the 37th state to enact a texting-while-driving ban.
"Most people know that texting and driving is a lethal combination," said Lisa Losness with the Idaho Transportation Department's Highway Safety Office. "But, there are still drivers who need this law to remind them to never make this dangerous decision."
Listed as an infraction, the new law bans drivers from using smartphones and other hand-held devices to manually review, prepare or send written communications while driving. However, it doesn't affect those using voice-activated or hands-free devices, said Police Sgt. Rick Viola, a spokesman with the Mountain Home Police Department in a previous interview with the Mountain Home News.
While police can stop and cite offenders for that violation alone, they are not considered moving violations with no points assessed against the driver's license. However, violators can expect to pay $85 if caught by a law enforcement officer.
The law comes six months after a Caldwell teenager died during a three-vehicle crash on the interstate just east of Mountain Home. A report from the Idaho State Police indicated that she was using her cell phone to send or receive a text message shortly before the fatal collision Jan. 14.
However, this accident wasn't an isolated case. Texting while driving represents a significant problem across the United States and has lead to an increase in traffic fatalities, Viola said.
The new law represents a "good deal" to promote public safety on local roads and state highways," added Elmore County Sheriff Rick Layher. "Texting while driving is a huge problem" and has led to a number of accidents in this county. We've lost a lot of people because people were texting behind the wheel."
"The point is that text message can wait; don't do it while driving," Viola added. "If it's really that important, safely pull over to the side of the road and review it as needed."
According to Viola, the city police department plans to issue warnings to drivers once the new law takes affect versus immediately issuing traffic tickets.