Texting law bans information transfer
The Idaho ban on texting while driving is not as cut and dry as it seems, according to Cpl. Art Lindquist of the Moscow Police Department.
The law, which went into effect in July, bans “the review of, or manual preparation and transmission of, written communications via handheld wireless devices.”
Lindquist said it is difficult to determine what this review, preparation or transmission of written communication actually means.
Idaho law doesn’t prohibit the use of cell phones, so traffic officers have to judge whether people are texting or whether they are dialing a phone call, according to Lindquist.
Traffic officer Bruce Lovell said it is a judgment call whether texting or emailing is the same as checking websites or using a phone’s GPS system.
“We’re not going to hammer everybody,” Lovell said.
The new code makes texting while driving a primary offense, meaning drivers can be pulled over just for doing it.
According to Lovell, officers look for other suspicious behavior to tell if somebody is texting — somebody might roll through a stop sign while looking into his or her lap, for instance.
He said they also look for drivers not paying attention at intersections and crosswalks.
Texting while driving leads to increased accidents because drivers are distracted, according to Lovell. He said drivers should focus on pedestrians and other cars in town.
While use of a cell phone itself isn’t against the law, inattentive or reckless driving is, according to Lindquist.
“I want to give a strong encouragement to not using your phone while driving,” Lindquist said.
He said drivers should pull over if they need to use take a phone call.
“There is a difference between what’s legal and what’s safe,” Lindquist said.
He said drivers should also remember that the use of cell phones while driving is prohibited in Washington.
The penalty for texting while driving in Idaho is an $81.50 fine, but it is not considered a moving violation — it doesn’t count for points or affect insurance rates, according to the code.
Kasen Christensen can be reached at email@example.com