The Idaho Senate killed a bill that would have required hands-free cell phone use among drivers. The Senate rejected the legislation in a 22-13 vote, citing government overreach.
“The people of the state of Idaho do not want to lose their ability to legally use their electronic devices – whether that’s safe or not by any technical definition is a moot point in my mind,” said Senator Dan Foreman, R-Moscow.
The bill, proposed by Senator Marv Hagedorn, R-Meridian, would have eliminated the state’s ban on texting while driving. That law has proven to be impossible to enforce, as it only targeted texting and not posting to social media or other uses of electronic devices.
The proposed bill would have replaced the previous legislation and required drivers to use hands-free electronic devices. It would have also banned the use of earbuds or headphones in both ears.
Hagedorn argued that the state had to do something about distracted driving. The Idaho Transportation Department says 64 people died in 2016 due to the misuse of electronic devices.
Cell phone use while driving is a growing problem across the country. In 2015, 42% of teens admitted to texting while driving.
Bert Brackett, Senate Transportation Chairman, was in favor of the bill.
“What we’re talking about is protecting others… My rights stop at the point that I endanger others,” he said.
Senator Steve Vick, R-Dalton Gardens, had a different opinion of the legislation. He called the bill “another example of overreach.”
Hagedorn said the goal of his bill was to save lives.
“We have a 28 percent increase of deaths in Idaho just in the last year for distracted driving and the costs are going up in lives and in dollars,” Hagedorn said. “We’ve got to do more than just texting and driving.”
States across America are taking steps to address the issue of distracted driving caused by cell phone use.
Virginia is considering rewriting its texting and driving law and replacing it with an expanded version of the distracted driving law.
The proposed legislation says any use of a cell phone that “substantially diverts the driver’s attention from the operation of the motor vehicle is guilty of distracted driving.”
Distracted driving would be considered a primary offense, which means drivers could be pulled over for cell phone use. Distracted drivers could be fined as much as $500. The proposed law mandates a minimum $250 fine if the offense occurs in a construction zone.
The law would make it easier for police officers to fine drivers for using their cell phones. Lawmakers are hoping the legislation will change drivers’ behavior.
Over the last six years, 949 Virginians were killed in distracted driving accidents. Almost a quarter of the fatal accidents in 2016 involved distracted driving, according to the Department of Motor Vehicles.
While the bill has drawn praise and criticism, it still doesn’t go as far as neighboring states like West Virignia, Maryland, Delaware and Washington, which have “hands-free” laws. In these states, drivers can be fined for holding a phone while operating a motor vehicle.