Eye On Boise

Hearing on texting-while-driving ban: 'Teenagers need it spelled out'

Sen. Jim Hammond, R-Coeur d'Alene, urges the House Transportation Committee on Tuesday to pass his texting-while-driving ban. (Betsy Russell)
Sen. Jim Hammond, R-Coeur d'Alene, urges the House Transportation Committee on Tuesday to pass his texting-while-driving ban. (Betsy Russell)

In this afternoon's House Transportation Committee hearing on SB 1274, the bill to ban texting while driving, Sen. Jim Hammond, R-Coeur d'Alene, told the panel, "It's intentionally simple so it's easily understood by the public and by law enforcement." The bill simply makes texting while driving an infraction, he said.

Sen. Patti Anne Lodge, R-Huston, the bill's co-sponsor, said, "Current law does not adequately address driving while communicating through social media such as texting. ... We write laws to address problems. Texting while driving is a problem we must face before we lose any more promising young people."

Shauna Sauer, whose 18-year-old daughter, Taylor, died in a texting-while-driving accident on an Idaho freeway in January, said, "Please remember, remember the loss that we will endure for the rest of our lives." Sauer said, "I keep hearing from people that it's stupid people that do this. My daughter was not stupid. She was salutatorian of her class. ... We feel there needs to be a law that specifically states that texting while driving is illegal. Teenagers need it spelled out. They honestly don't feel that texting is inattentive since they are so proficient at it."

Taylor's 11-year-old sister then gave a moving tribute to her sister and how much she misses her. Erik Makrush, lobbyist for the Idaho Freedom Foundation, was called to testify next - against the bill - and was initially at a loss for words. "We support the initiatives by multiple efforts to educate the dangers of texting while driving," Makrush told the lawmakers. But, he said, "The bill carves out texting when other activities may be just as distracting." He argued that eating or putting on makeup could be just as distracting to a driver as texting; he called for extensive amendments to the bill, moving instead toward a hands-free requirement.

Rep. Rich Wills, R-Glenns Ferry, said there may not be time for such extensive amendments to the bill this year. Teenager Janelle DeWeerd of Meridian told the committee, "Let's be the 43rd state to ban texting while driving." Rocky Mountain High School senior Eli Nary asked lawmakers, "How many people have to die for this to be a law?"

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Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Russell covers Idaho news from the state capitol in Boise and writes the Eye on Boise blog.

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