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Otter signs Idaho texting ban into law

BOISE - Idaho has officially banned texting while driving, after three years of trying.

Gov. Butch Otter on Thursday signed HB 1274a, the bill banning texting while driving, into law. The new law, which passed this year after three years of unsuccessful attempts in the Legislature to enact such a ban, makes texting while driving an infraction. Idaho has misdemeanor penalties for inattentive driving, but unlike most states it had no specific law banning texting while driving.

Two years ago, a ban that had passed the Senate died on the final night of the legislative session in the House, when then-Rep. Raul Labrador, now an Idaho U.S. representative, used a parliamentary maneuver to force a two-thirds vote. The bill failed with just a 37-30 majority. Last year’s version would have banned texting while driving only if it distracted the driver; the bill failed.

This year’s bill got strong support in committee hearings, from teens to law enforcement to the AAA to to insurers. It also got a solemn boost when an 18-year-old Caldwell woman, Taylor Sauer, died in January in an Idaho freeway crash while texting. Her surviving family members offered tearful testimony in favor of the bill in committee hearings in both houses.

Sen. Jim Hammond, R-Coeur d’Alene, sponsored this year’s bill, a simple, one-page measure; the new law takes effect July 1.

“I’m really delighted,” Hammond said Friday. “It’s a great educational tool, and if kids don’t learn, they can be cited for it.”