About 130 drivers cited over new Idaho texting law

Associated Press

Published: Monday, Oct. 22 2012 10:16 p.m. MDT

In this Sept. 20, 2011 file photo, a phone is held in a car in Brunswick, Maine. Texting while driving increased 50 percent last year and two out of 10 drivers say they've sent text messages or emails while behind the wheel despite a rush by states to ban the practice, the National Traffic Safety Administration said Thursday.

Associated Press

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BOISE — About 130 drivers have been cited in Idaho for texting while driving since July, an offense created by the Idaho Legislature this year in an effort to make the state's roads safer.

Some drivers say the offense has caused them to think twice before picking up their cellphones while behind the wheel, the Coeur d'Alene Press reported last week.

Of the 130 citations, 86 have been resolved with guilty findings.

Many of the other tickets are pending.

Sen. Jim Hammond, a northern Idaho Republican who carried the texting bill in the 2012 Legislature, says the tickets — and the second thoughts — show the law is working as intended. Hammond said lawmakers thought that the texting ban would deter many drivers initially and then would become more effective over time with education programs similar to those associated with drinking and driving laws.

"People used to think that drinking and driving wasn't much of a big deal. Now, it's a social norm not to do that," Hammond said.

Idaho is among at least 35 other states that ticket drivers for texting. Momentum behind Idaho's changes developed as several teens were involved in accidents preceded by texting.

An infraction costs $85, including court fees.

According to the rule in Idaho, drivers can talk on their mobile phones, but they can't send texts while steering a car on the state's roads.

The legislation stalled in past sessions before passing this year, but that doesn't mean there still aren't misgivings from some who think the law is all but unenforceable.

Authorities concede they could face challenges prosecuting an individual who adamantly challenges a citation, but believe it's still worth it.

Post Falls police Capt. Pat Knight said officers are getting better at identifying texting drivers, learning to look for visual cues that accompany busy thumbs and fingers that should be dedicated to the steering wheel, not reaching out electronically to friends or acquaintances.

"The ways that we try to differentiate between texting and driving is to observe the individual for a moment before determining to stop or not," Knight said. "I think that you'll see someone who is dialing a number is relatively quick at doing so versus a lengthy text."

Automobile groups expect that as more cars are sold with wireless technology, texting while driving will become less of an issue.

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